The Jewish press has been abuzz with attempts by faith groups of all different stripes to pressure Arizona’s Republican Governor Jan Brewer not to sign into law what the organization “Faith in Public Life” called “the most extreme anti-immigrant legislation in the country” and the New York Times described as the “nation’s toughest bill on illegal immigration.”
A group of Reform Rabbis in Arizona described the bill as “inhumane and retrogressive” and criticized it for inviting “racial and ethnic profiling by broadly defining reasonable suspicion of undocumented status as grounds for apprehension by the police.” In a letter to Governor Brewer they stated:
Allowing an individual’s accent or skin color to precipitate an investigation into his/her legal status is an affront to American values of justice and our historic status as a nation of immigrants. . . . We agree wholeheartedly that our immigration system is broken and in need of significant repair. Yet this bill moves us in the wrong direction, violating the principles of justice on which our nation was founded. We should, instead, focus our energy on comprehensive reform of our immigration system.
Despite the efforts of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and members of Arizona’s rabbinical delegation, Gov. Brewer took the plunge and signed the bill into law on Friday.
Under the new law, state officials can inquire into an individual’s immigration status so long as they have a “reasonable suspicion.” Or as the Faith and Reason blog explained:
If you’re in Arizona and look even remotely like some policeman’s idea of an illegal immigrant, a law signed today says you will have to produce papers showing you’re in the USA legally whenever and where-ever an officer requests this — and so will anyone else with you.
President Obama has already decried the legislation, and instructed the U.S. Department of Justice to examine the statute’s constitutionality. the Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund has stated that it will challenge the statute.
Read the full text of Arizona’s new anti-immigrant law here. What do you make of it? Is it Kosher? Could it be effective? And for the Cardozo Society members out there – is it constitutional?
And because it never gets old . . . if you haven’t seen local Rabbi Morris Allen’s take on immigration reform (at the Washington, DC immigration rally on the Mall before Passover in March 2010), watch it here:
Thanks, TCJewfolk, for calling attention to Arizona’s bad law.
Join Jewish Community Action and many immigrant allies to protest it….TODAY!
5:00 p.m., Mon., 4/26/10
in front of the Hilton
1001 Marquette Avenue, Minneapolis
“The law, which proponents and critics alike said was the broadest and strictest immigration measure in generations, would make the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and give the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. Opponents have called it an open invitation for harassment and discrimination against Hispanics regardless of their citizenship status.”(New York Times)
“The present immigration system is completely incapable of balancing our nation’s need for labor and the supply of that labor. We have built a huge wall along our southern border, and have posted in effect two signs next to each other. One reads, “No Trespassing,” and the other reads “Help Wanted.” The ill-conceived Arizona law does nothing to balance our labor needs.” (L.A. Cardinal Roger Mahony)
You know, I’ve always wondered how this particular issue, of all issues, ever became a “Jewish issue.” Obviously, a large number of Jews care about this issue, but then again, large numbers of Jews are also, say, pro-choice, or for women’s rights, or for environmental conservation. And yet we don’t usually see the American Jewish Committee, or the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, or other major Jewish organizations that cross the Jewish spectrum speak out in major ways in support of pro-choice legislation or women’s rights, or on any of those other issues that many, or even most, Jews care about.
So why this one? How is this issue a more inherently “Jewish issue” than any other one? Do we really and truly have such immense consensus on this one issue across the Jewish community? Or is there truly such an obvious Jewish religious stance on this issue? Issues of religion in public life I would get – but immigration into the United States, and how to regulate it? Is Antisemitism a hate crime or should there be a White House menorah this is not…
One more point I would like to share. While there is much to debate about this law, and how good or bad of an idea it may be, there is one interesting point about it that tends to get left out of the discussion entirely, and does seem not-irrelevant to me. I don’t know how many native-born Americans are aware of this, but when people come into the United States, whether as tourists or on various visas (students, workers, etc.), they are issued an I-94 document upon arrival in the US, which specifies their status, and how long they are allowed to remain in the US. A portion of this form is stapled into one’s passport, and by federal law: “[t]he departure portion of CBP Form I-94 and passport is to be in the applicant’s possession at all times until the applicant departs the United States.”
There is of course the obvious issue of state vs. federal enforcement, but the question does beg to be asked – if it is not valid to ever ask to see this form, which people are supposed to carry on them at all times while in the US, then what is the point of having a law requiring them to carry it in the first place? And if we do have this requirement, and visitors and temporary immigrants are required to carry this form, then by what indicator would it ever be OK to ask to see it? Having a foreign accent? Or walking around confused and staring at tall buildings in New York City? And if these are not acceptable, then can anyone actually suggest any indicator that would be? Or explain what the point is of having a law requiring you to do something that no one is ever allowed to check on, again by law? And if it is valid to ask to see it, then aren’t we right back to asking people to show a document listing their status and length of stay in the country again?
Excellent comments Jenna.
In looking at the US, I note Minnesota does not lie in the southern border states so the impact of a policy they are advocating has no effect on the state of Minnesota.
I reside in Arizona for over 30 years now. Illegal aliens in both states have a direct and dynamic impact on border states on many fronts. The constant flow across the border is unsustainable for our state. Now maybe the answer is to dig into the pockets of all of you in the twin cities to defray the costs of illegals.
Let’s call it the Twin City Tzedukah to the southern border states.
While I do have some specific concerns about this particular law, the often overly emotional response of Jewish groups ties back to the impendence of Jewish immigration during the Shoah. It’s a legitimate concern, but you can’t put all immigration law through the lens of that specific historical instance. I would flip the question of immigration like this: Does Israel have a right to put up checkpoints every two blocks for Palestinians in Judea or Shomron visiting Israel proper or ask at the airport what your intentions for visiting the country are? Of course they have right, just as the US or Saudi Arabia have the right to regulate their borders. We can argue about how that regulation is conducted, but let’s at least have an open and rational discussion.
As far as every random special interest group calling themselves Jewish, it’s reached a level of serious absurdity. I for one want to start up the next group called “Jews against grape drink.” Anyone interested?
Jewish Community Action has been involved in immigrant rights initiatives for nearly 15 years, and has been engaging the local Jewish community in that work for as long. Below is a statement about our work. For more, please see our website, http://www.jewishcommunityaction.org.
“As American Jews, we represent an immigrant people living within a nation that is rich with diversity of history and experience. Since the beginning of our history, Jews have known the experience of being immigrants and wanderers. Indeed, the first commandment given to Abraham is “leave your land, your people and your parental home.” As slaves in the land of Egypt, we experienced the worst of what foreignness can entail. Accordingly, our legal and ethical teachings demand that our own experience of being strangers in other lands compel us to care for the newcomers within our own communities. The Torah alone presents dozens of commandments governing the treatment of strangers, including the prohibition against oppressing the other, and the mandate to make “one law for both the citizen and stranger among you” (Exodus 22:20, 24:22).
“We in the Jewish community know that people do not flee their homes without reason. They leave to escape oppression, violence, poverty, and desperation. They emigrate in the belief that new surroundings offer better opportunities and a better life. Many have sought such opportunity in the U.S. and have become our neighbors. They are individuals striving for the very same things that we seek to give our families, and they come with the same hopes as our own grandparents. We cannot look at the immigration question without seeing the faces of our friends and forebears. Much like the first Jewish immigrants who arrived in the United States 350 years ago, today’s immigrants seek freedom and the opportunity to build new lives, to make contributions and to become full participants in American society.
“As Jews, our history and religion teach us that we must speak up when see injustice. This is why Jewish Community Action joins a century-long legacy of American Jews supporting immigrant rights. Because our current immigration system is out of line with Jewish values of dignity and human rights for all, JCA joins AFFIRM, a Minnesota coalition of organizations working to pass fair and humane comprehensive immigration reform.
“Key Principles for Immigration Reform:
-a path to U.S. citizenship for immigrants and their families now living and working in the United States;
-a fair and just immigration process for future immigrants and refugees;
-restoring due process and human rights protections;
-supporting worker rights.”
For more about this and other aspects of our work, please see http://www.jewishcommunityaction.org.
While you are quoting verses, selectively of course, don’t forget Exodus 34:11-13: “Obey what I command you today. I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”
I think that this Arizona law’s bark will be much worse than its bite.
The problem with this law is that it seems to allow police to harass people who look or sound like Latinos based on vague “reasonable suspicion” that they are breaking our immigration laws.
As a lawyer, though, I am hopeful that, in practice, the idea of “reasonable suspicion” would be both the problem and the solution.
Let’s remember that this law would be enforced by the same Arizona police, prosecutors, and judges who have long practice with the idea of reasonable suspicion in other contexts (it is a basic concept in our criminal law). Let’s say police officers bring to a judge someone that they detained on “reasonable suspicion” of immigration violation. The government needs to show to the judge that their suspicion was indeed _reasonable_. I would be _very_ surprised if judges agreed that merely having an accent or having a darker skin tone would add up to reasonable suspicion. (In addition to being problematic from the standpoint of discrimination, that kind of standard would be completely impracticable — it covers way too many people in Arizona.)
What _would_ be enough for real reasonable suspicion? That’s actually a pretty tough question to answer (as Jenna’s comment above correctly identifies). Maybe if police find someone in the desert close the border and that person looks like they’ve been on a long hike… then police might seek explanations and might ask to see identification. But, hey, don’t ask me. Maybe Arizona cops should ask U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) –the bureaus whose jobs this really is.
Yehoshua writes “While you are quoting verses, selectively of course, don’t forget Exodus 34:11-13: “Obey what I command you today. I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites”
So which one of these groups are crossing into Arizona exactly?
And Mike, one question: Are they making a distinction between reasonable suspicion and probable cause? Is it a distinction without a difference?
I fully agree that there is a problem, but this law is not the way to solve anything. Support comprehensive immigration reform now.
There is a real difference between “reasonable suspicion” and “probable cause” in American criminal law. Probable cause is a higher standard, the one that’s necessary for arrest and search warrants. But with reasonable suspicion a police officer may stop and question someone.
I rather suspect that the difference is the same in Arizona, for this and for other criminal laws.
Thanks for that clarification.
As you say, with reasonable suspicion a police officer may stop and question someone. However, could that person exercise their civil rights and not answer any questions. Could I “plead the 5th” so to speak?
Of course, ML. That’s why the Miranda warning includes your “right to remain silent.”
I was facetiously highlighting the supposedly progressive values of the Torah, not actually intimating that Mexicans are Jebusites. Funny how people love quoting verses selectively for some political point. Again, there’s some definite problems with the implementation of this law, but automatic knee-jerk emotive reaction by such groups as above, or my Marxist professors at the UMN, have reached a new level of buffoonery.