Profiles in Cowardice


Arizona Governor Jan Brewer last week signed a draconian measure that makes the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and mandates that local law enforcement officials detain those suspected of being in the U.S. illegally (see related story on page 9).


The statute is likely violative of the United States Constitution on several grounds, but more importantly, is morally flawed. As President Barack Obama has stated, the law threatens to “undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between the police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe. “

Despite Brewer’s affirmations to the contrary, most analysts predict that profiling under the law is inevitable. Arizona police will be able to pull over, question, and potentially arrest people simply for what could be called “Driving While Hispanic. “

Living in a border state, Arizonans certainly deal with the issue of illegal immigration more than many other Americans, and the issue is front and center politically there. Frustration has been mounting in Arizona that the federal government has not addressed immigration reform in a meaningful way. But this is no excuse whatsoever for casting a net wide enough to ensnare people by virtue of how they look or their national origin.

This unfortunately isn’t an isolated instance of Arizona being out of sync with the nation on issues of diversity and fairness. It long refused to recognize the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a state holiday, a position it finally was shamed into reversing. And just recently, the “birther” movement, still delusional about Obama’s U.S. citizenship, pressured the state House to adopt a bill requiring birth certificates to be presented in presidential elections.

The Arizona immigration law is the strictest in the U.S., and perhaps the most expansive since the quotas imposed under the Immigration Act of 1924, aimed at limiting Europeans (many suggested Jews were a principal target) and Asians into the country.

Even conservative columnists like David Brooks of The New York Times have joined the chorus of criticism against the Arizona bill. Jewish groups that have already spoken in opposition include the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the American Jewish Committee, National Council of Jewish Women and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

It is profoundly disappointing that Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain, has actually endorsed this shameful bill as he veers from his right-center core, pandering for votes in the upcoming Republican primary. McCain had worked with his late friend, Senator Ted Kennedy, on federal legislation which would address immigration in a humane and rational manner.

On the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty is the immortal poem “The New Colossus ” by the Jewish poet Emma Lazarus, which includes the words, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door! “

Are we going to repudiate the Statue of Liberty with statutes of hate? The state of Arizona’s legislature and Governor have hit a new low in the politics of ethnic division and hatred. We hope that the law is overturned in full at the earliest possible date.