By Dennis Shook, for   Published Jun 30, 2006 at 5:09 AM
Thousands of people and top national politicos have been gathering this week for the national League of United Latin American Citizens convention, making Milwaukee and area Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner central figures in the national immigration debate.

Sensenbrenner won't attend and national GOP leader Ken Mehlman had to cancel because of weather problems back east. But DNC Chair Howard Dean made it and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, NAACP President Bruce Gordon, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Jesse Jackson are due in today and tomorrow.

By the time it's done, the convention is expected to draw nearly 10,000 people to the city bordering the Sensenbrenner's congressional district. The Menomonee Falls Republican has been the lightning rod for angry Hispanics. Sensenbrenner, head of the House Judiciary Committee, proposed a bill that would felonies and expel undocumented workers, quite different than fellow Republican President George Bush's plan to establish a guest worker program that Sensenbrenner has said is tantamount to "amnesty" for an estimated 11 million Hispanics in the U.S. who are not citizens.

Darryl Morin, deputy state director for LULAC Wisconsin, said Sensenbrenner has declined numerous invitations to speak in front of the group. Morin said arrangements were even made to work around his schedule.

“We have invited him to events, given him advance notice of the LULAC conference and made an effort to reach out to him personally,” Morin said. “He said we scheduled his speech for a day we knew he could not make it, but that is not true."

But Sensenbrenner spokesman Raj Bharwani said the LULAC organizers were aware that the House would be voting this week and that the Friday slot they offered him would not work.

"There's no way he's going to be in Wisconsin when he's scheduled to be here voting. That's his job," Bharwani said. "They've known for a long time he couldn't make it on Friday."

Yolanda Santos Adams, LULAC state director, says politicians like Sensenbrenner want to create a one-size-fits-all solution to two separate problems - border security and citizenship. "The border security is very important to everyone," she said. "(But) we have to come to a solution where the least amount of people get hurt."

As the convention ends Saturday at the Midwest Airlines Center, Voces de la Frontera members are planning to be at the Midwest Airlines Center for an 8 a.m. rally with civil right leader Dolores Huerta. Then supporters are to gather at Our Lady of Guadalupe, 621 S. 4th St., to participate in a nationwide campaign called "Democracy Summer" which is "designed to help a million eligible individuals become citizens and voters."

Latino activists say they will also conduct a non-partisan neighborhood outreach in four wards to identify eligible voters and persons interested in citizenship class registration and English as a Second Language class registration.

Some participants will also be writing letters to their legislative representatives and attaching them to a construction worker's glove to remind the politicians about the hard work and economic contributions the immigrant workforce makes to this country.