Remarks of Deborah M. Lauter
Director of Civil Rights
ADL is honored to participate in this important telephonic press conference today and to stand with our friends in the Hispanic and civil rights communities year-round to fight bigotry, prejudice and discrimination.
We in the Jewish community know too well the ugly history of anti-immigrant backlash when it was directed at our parents and grandparents. We do not want to see that history repeated for any individual or group. We know from our own experience and from the experience of other immigrant groups in America that when a society begins to demonize a group as less deserving of rights, less worthy, less human, less equal-- then discrimination, exploitation, and worse follows. We cannot let the task of fighting hate fall to its victims alone.
ADL is outraged by the hate words and hate violence that have targeted Latinos in this country. The immigration debate has become a flashpoint for racist and neo Nazi extremist groups who foment bigotry and blame immigrants for all of our country’s problems. We are concerned that their hateful rhetoric is taking hold with too many in the mainstream community and we are dismayed by the deterioration of civil discourse as well as the increase in vigilantism.
In 1958 when this country was also engaged in a debate over immigration, ADL published an inspiring book by then-Senator John F. Kennedy called, “A Nation of Immigrants” in which he extolled what immigrants have done for America and what America has done for its immigrants. ADL re-released the book on its 50th anniversary, with a forward by Senator Ted Kennedy who took up his brother’s mantle to highlight how the embracing of immigrants has been one of the dramatic success stories of world history. In that forward, Senator Ted said, “At the heart of the issue of immigration is hope.”
Today, it is our hope that Governor Brewer will use her leadership to guide Arizona toward a future that welcomes diversity, rather than toward a future that plays on fear. All Americans have a stake in reforming our immigration law with fairness, compassion, and effective enforcement. Laws like this one are just plain mean-spirited and counterproductive and deserve to be vetoed. We can and must do better.