The ADL, Arizona and anti-immigrant craziness
07/08/2010 - 09:33
James Besser

Some of the nastiest email I get is on the issue of immigration reform. To read these missives, you'd never know that Jewish groups have been at the forefront of the effort to overhaul a badly broken legal immigration system and offer a path to citizenship for those here illegally.

I'm guessing ADL leader Abe Foxman gets a lot more of this stuff than I do, but that didn't stop the group from coming out in strong opposition to Arizona's “harsh new anti-immigrant law,” passed with the support of a governor who last week asserted that illegal immigrants are responsible for beheadings in her state, a claim quickly denied by state law enforcement agencies.

This week the ADL came announced support of the Obama administration's decision to challenge the Arizona law in court.

Foxman and ADL president Robert Sugarman said the ADL “welcomes the Justice Department’s action to prevent the ill-advised Arizona law from taking effect later this month...The Arizona law poorly serves both our security and our values as a nation of immigrants.”

The ADL filed its own amicus brief last month challenging a law it called “ill-conceived and misguided.”

The ADL also ties the “virulent anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric that has risen to the surface as part of the national debate over immigration” and the actions of politicians trying to cash in on the national mood of rage to hate violence.

No Jewish group I know of thinks U.S. borders should be thrown wide open; what the ADL, HIAS, the American Jewish Committee and other groups want is a balanced and fair immigration reform that enhances enforcement but also finds ways to maintain America's tradition as a nation of immigrants – a tradition that served our own community well.

And though he's too nonpartisan to say it, I suspect Foxman is more than a little alarmed by the rhetoric of politicians like Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who seem to throw caution and common sense to the wind when stirring up worried voters with horror stories about an illegal immigration crime wave.

Sounds sorta like the horror stories American nativists threw around in the late 19th and early 20th centuries about all those dirty, diseased, criminal Eastern European immigrants – including many of our ancestors.


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So will the ADL condemn Rhode Island? As a matter of routine, RI state police check immigration status at traffic stops whenever there is reasonable suspicion to do so, and they report all illegals to the feds for deportation. Besides the usual profiling blather, critics have trotted out the now familiar saw that such procedures hamstring police because they make immigrants afraid to cooperate. But it turns out that it’s the Rhode Island police who insist on enforcing the law. As Cornell law prof William Jacobson details at Legal Insurrection, Colonel Brendan P. Doherty, the state police commander, “refuses to hide from the issue,” explaining, ”I would feel that I’m derelict in my duties to look the other way.”