Sunday, April 18, 2010


The Arizona legislature just passed the country's most retrogressive, mean-spirited, and useless anti-immigrant law [SB 1070, awaiting the expected signature of Gov. Jan Brewer]. The tragedy of the law is its totally flawed reasoning: that immigrants come to our country to rob, plunder, and consume public resources. That is not only false, the premise is nonsense.

What led the Arizona legislature to pass such a law is so obvious to all of us who have been working for federal comprehensive immigration reform: 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.

The law is wrongly assuming that Arizona residents, including local law enforcement personnel, will now shift their total attention to guessing which Latino-looking or foreign-looking person may or may not have proper documents. That's also nonsense. American people are fair-minded and respectful. I can't imagine Arizonans now reverting to German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques whereby people are required to turn one another in to the authorities on any suspicion of documentation. Are children supposed to call 911 because one parent does not have proper papers? Are family members and neighbors now supposed to spy on one another, create total distrust across neighborhoods and communities, and report people because of suspicions based upon appearance?

Various cities and states have tried such abhorrent tactics over the decades with absolutely no positive effect. Such laws have all been struck down by courts or repealed by wise citizens. Sadly, such laws lead to a new round of immigrant-bashing--usually in times of economic downturn.

Our highest priority today is to bring calm and reasoning to discussions about our immigrant brothers and sisters. We are a nation of immigrants, and their commitment and skills have created the finest country in the world. Let's not allow fearful and ill-informed rhetoric to shape public policy. Let's put a human face on our immigrant friends, and let's listen to their stories and their desires to improve their own lives and the good of the nation.

Almost all of our immigrant families are "mixed," that is, some members have legal documents to be here and some members do not. Asking ordinary Americans and over-worked law enforcement officers to hunt down people of suspicious legal documentation is ludicrous and ineffective.

Let's direct our energies where they need to be focused: passing a federal comprehensive immigration law which is forward-looking and which will help balance our need for adequate labor forces in the coming years. The Census Bureau reports that every day a minimum of 10,000 baby boomers retire. How are we going to provide the labor pool to fill all of these jobs in the coming years?

Our nation has no plan for our future labor needs. None.

As our economy begins to grow again, and as goods and services need to be provided and moved around the country, the need for motivated and eager employees will be of highest priority. Let's put our focus on people and our future together, not on retrogressive tactics which have never worked before in our country's history.

I have met so many of our immigrant families and I am in awe at their love for our country, their care and concern for their children, and their resourcefulness in helping to improve our communities, our way of life, and our economic future.