Our newspaper, which serves the Jewish community of Minnesota, featured an article, on Page 1 of our April 30 edition, about the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, which you signed into law last month. The JTA story, “Jewish groups decry Arizona immigration law,” began: “Jewish groups are slamming Arizona’s stringent new immigration-enforcement law, but hope outrage over the measure will reignite efforts to push comprehensive immigration reform on a national level.”
The story also noted that Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, a Jewish Democrat, referred to the immigration bill as one that “nationally embarrasses Arizona,” in an op-ed published in the Washington Post. Also mentioned in the article was the fact that eight Reform rabbis from Arizona wrote to you, urging that you veto the bill and calling it “an affront to American values of justice and our historic status as a nation of immigrants.”
My colleagues at the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix — which published an editorial on April 23, strongly opposing the immigration bill which was awaiting your decision — will host the annual conference of the American Jewish Press Association next month. I have been weighing the pros and cons of attending the conference this year; there is an expense involved, but it has been helpful to meet and share ideas with my colleagues at these gatherings that I have attended for the past four years.
Then, Gov. Brewer, you signed the immigration bill into law. That seemed to tip the scales against my visiting Arizona. As you are aware, a coalition of organizations, in Arizona and across the nation, have organized a boycott of your state. Even an Arizona state legislator, Raul Grijalva, has endorsed the boycott, urging folks not to visit or retire in his home state.
Many residents of the other 49 states in the union wonder how the law enforcement authorities in Arizona are going to figure out who’s legal and who’s not. The strong suspicion is that the new law will sanction racial profiling and create widespread fear in a vast swathe of your state’s population.
“This bill seduces the people of Arizona with the false promise of improving safety and security in our state, butÂ fails to do either,” wrote Bill Straus, Arizona Regional Director of the ADL, in a news release on the organization’s Web site, which was reported in the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix. “In actuality, this bill drives a wedge between local law enforcement and the communities they are sworn to serve and protect.”
The story in our sister Jewish newspaper mentioned that the bill that you signed “was sponsored by Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, who, Straus notes, has been associated with a high-profile local neo-Nazi, J.T. Ready.”
How did Arizona go so quickly from “safe neighborhoods” to neo-Nazis?
Up here in Minnesota, we should not be too sanctimonious about what’s happening in Arizona, because the contagion of fear has spread. Last week, according to a report on MinnesotaIndependent.com, state Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, introduced a bill “modeled after Arizona’s new controversial immigration law. The bill would create a Minnesota Illegal Immigration Enforcement Team and require immigrants to carry an ‘alien registration’ card. The bill uses the same ‘reasonable suspicion’ protocol that has generated criticism against Arizona’s law. It even carried the same name: The Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act.”
Of course, Drazkowski’s proposal (HF 3830) will go nowhere quickly in Minnesota’s DFL-controlled legislature. The bill appears to reflect the sentiments of a certain xenophobic and racist faction in the Tea Party movement, which has organized public rallies for their punitive version of “immigration reform.”
Again, the Jewish community mainly appears to be opposed to Arizona’s new approach to a problem that has festered in the absence of a humane overhaul of immigration policy on the federal level.
Richard Foltin, the American Jewish Committee’s director of national and legislative affairs, in a statement reported in the Phoenix Jewish newspaper, said that the legislation you signed into law “essentially allows police to question and arrest people on little more than suspicion. It will encourage racial profiling, fear of police and further distrust in a community already wary of law enforcement.”
So, I was inclined to join the boycott Arizona movement and not attend the AJPA conference in Scottsdale. In a small way, I thought that would demonstrate my opposition to your state’s new immigration law. However, I have arrived at a different conclusion: I will travel to Arizona and report back to the American Jewish World readers.
AJPA members will gather in Scottsdale for our annual conference, June 14-17, and there will be a special session devoted to the Arizona immigration law. AJPA President Elana Kahn-Oren is encouraging our group’s members to attend the conference and get a first-hand look at a controversy that has reverberated across the country.
Most of the Jewish World’s readers are of the first and second generations of their families born in America. We understand that America represented the hope of a prosperous and peaceful life for our ancestors, and that the current generation of immigrants also comes here in search of a better life.Â I will keep an open mind about what awaits me in Arizona next month; but I also know that the Torah commands: “You shall have one law for the stranger and the citizens alike” (Leviticus 24:22).
— Mordecai Specktor / email@example.com
(American Jewish World, 5.14.10)