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ContrastsA man charged with the murder of...

Contrasts

A man charged with the murder of a Prince George's County police officer recently was found guilty four times since 1988 of drug dealing and possession, felony theft and robbery, but he has served only 206 days behind bars.

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Meanwhile, Gov. Parris Glendening wants to control guns in every home in Maryland, including my home.

Am I missing something here?

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John Cullom

Catonsville

Immigrants

I applaud Daniel Berger's April 15 column pointing out the contradictions in the House version of welfare reform, i.e., H.R. 4, the "Personal Responsibility Act." This proposed legislation is truly a new unfunded mandate.

I take issue, however, with the assumption that H.R. 4 is wholly responsible for the marked increase in citizenship applications.

Immigrant advocates have long been concerned with the low naturalization rate -- 37 percent among eligible permanent residents. Yet signs of improvement have been visible for several years.

In 1985, the Ford Foundation sought to address the problem when it funded the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) to conduct an ambitious, multi-year research and demonstration project on U.S. citizenship and the Latino community.

After finding that many immigrants lack knowledge of the naturalization process, NALEO developed a series of workshops where large groups of permanent residents receive assistance in filling out their applications.

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Since 1989, thousands have been processed at these workshops, and they are being emulated in major metropolitan areas throughout the country.

Last year, the Maryland Office for New Americans began public education in the ethnic communities on the benefits and responsibilities of citizenship.

With the cooperation of the Immigration and Naturalization Service in Baltimore, we began conducting citizenship workshops in the Baltimore-Washington area. The response has been gratifying.

Working with various ethnic communities, depending entirely on volunteer help, we have helped some 300 eligible permanent residents complete their applications at three workshops.

At each workshop, we have surveyed participants on their reasons for naturalizing. For more than 80 percent, the opportunity to vote is the primary incentive. Fewer than 5 percent have said they fear being denied benefits if they do not become citizens.

In its last session, the Maryland General Assembly passed a citizenship promotion program bill which will provide public education and application assistance to eligible immigrants through the efforts of community organizations.

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This is a positive, proactive measure that avoids the coercive tone of the Personal Responsibility Act.

Although immigrants are free not to seek citizenship, I believe this country can only benefit if greater numbers commit themselves to the ideas that make this country great.

While I am sure that legislation like Prop. 187 in California and H.R. 4 have frightened some immigrants into applying for citizenship, immigrants are also responding to the positive incentives of citizenship.

They want to vote, sit on a jury, hold elective office and be recognized as full-fledged Americans.

Frank J. Bien

Baltimore

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The writer is director of the Maryland Office for New Americans in the Maryland Department of Human Resources.

Political Pygmies

How can two basically decent people let their desire for elected office turn them into back-stabbing, mud-slinging political pygmies?

McNair Taylor

Baltimore

Irresponsible

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. . . What could the editors have been thinking in publishing the irresponsible article April 17 about the Maryland School for the Blind?

When was the last time The Sun wrote a complimentary article about MSB? Are all the efforts of so many dedicated people not worth printing? Are there no success stories to be found about present or previous students that are worth printing?

Is $18,000 now a "luxury" car by today's standards? If you think so, you should check the library to find out what they are costing.

Was the purchasing agent out of line to shop for a car that's suitable to carry several adults over what could be long trips in reasonable comfort? How about the fact that Consumer Reports gave that car high ratings for repairs? What could the editors have been thinking?

Did the reporter talk to anyone besides laid-off or disgruntled employees? How do you think the employees would have reacted to a proposal that everyone work for say 20 percent less instead of reducing some positions?

Folks, MSB is like any business in that at times you have to make some gut-wrenching decisions to stay in business.

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What bothers me most about this one-sided type of journalism is what it does to the people who are trying to make it work. This type of article does nothing constructive; it undermines.

How do you think the people who work so hard every day for those children feel to read a story like this? The teachers, the housekeeping staff, the medical staff, the maintenance people, the food staff, administration -- the students -- how do you think they feel?

Ron Goetzke

Perry Hall

Moral Authority

I applaud your clear reporting of the issues in the hearing to determine whether repressed memories caused by post traumatic stress disorder constitute a valid exception to Maryland's three-year statute of limitations on filing civil suits.

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I believe there are several points which should be emphasized regarding this case.

First, the Archdiocese of Baltimore has chosen to hide behind the statute of limitation, rather than face the charges of sexual abuse on their merits.

Second, the archdiocese's use of statute of limitations in this matter extends far beyond the two women who brought the suit.

The archdiocese is using the statute of limitations to avoid dealing with allegations against Joseph Maskell by scores of individuals whose memories of his alleged sexual misconduct and abuse were never repressed.

Archdiocesan officials have an absolute legal right to use the statute of limitations, or any other legal technically they can find, to avoid legal responsibility for their actions.

L However, by so doing, they relinquish their moral authority.

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Allegation of sexual misconduct and abuse are serious matters which deserve a full and fair hearing, particularly when the institution involved presents itself as the moral conscience of the community.

If the archdiocese is unwilling to take responsibility for its actions, how can it challenge society to do so?

If archdiocesan officials use the letter of the law to avoid the spirit of the law, how can they be taken seriously when they entreat others to go beyond the requirements of the law and satisfy their moral responsibilities?

Franklin J. Eppig Jr.

Finksburg

Ron Smith's Double-Barreled Hypocrisy

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I am writing in response to Ron Smith's Rejoinder: "Blame the Majority" (Opinion * Commentary, April 30).

Conservatives have lectured liberals for years on the need to unconditionally renounce left-wing terrorists and urban crime. No social problems, in their view, could justify these acts. Yet here is Mr. Smith, saying that the Oklahoma City tragedy reflects some justified anger about the Branch Davidians that must be "soothed."

Conservatives have lectured liberals for years about the tough job of the law-enforcement officer, who must constantly make split-second, life-or-death decisions based on little or no information.

Yet here is Mr. Smith, presenting readers with a masterpiece of double-barreled hypocrisy.

In one paragraph, he blames the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for allowing the Branch Davidians to burn themselves up. In another paragraph, he defends the role of four Los Angeles police officers in clubbing an unarmed man.

I think it's time for Mr. Smith and his fellow paranoiacs out in deep right field to face reality.

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The tragedy at Waco was a self-inflicted one. The adults in the compound, for whatever reason, chose to burn themselves to death. Such a choice was never given to the children of the cultists, to Rodney King or to the victims in Oklahoma City.

Mr. Smith's column, and similar statements by others of his ilk, do more to legitimize terrorism than anything President Clinton has said or done.

I frankly think that some conservatives resent the president for providing effective national leadership at the moment in our history when it was desperately needed.

As for talk radio, all the president has said is, "Let's cool some of the rhetoric." He didn't say, "Don't criticize me anymore"; or, "This is an excuse to vote for my party" (as Newt Gingrich did in the wake of the Susan Smith arrest in South Carolina).

He certainly didn't single out individuals. Instead, individuals have come forward, like Mr. Smith, demanding to be singled out. It seems as if everyone in the conservative movement is competing to be identified with its most extreme segments.

The rhetoric from current Republican candidates for president, sadly, reflects this anti-government bidding war. (By the way, if they're so anti-government, why do all of them want to be its leader?)

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Rather than attack the president for standing up to far-right fruitcakes, Mr. Smith should join him in vehemently denouncing a heartbreaking tragedy that has no justification in Waco or anywhere else.

That type of unity between responsible members of both sides )) of the political debate would do more to "soothe" any national anger than asking "How high?" every time a terrorist says "Jump!"

Stephen R. Rourke

Baltimore



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