An Arizona Rabbi Speaks

My classmate and colleague Rabbi Thomas Loucheim is the Rabbi in Tuscon, Arizona.

Below are his remarks concerning SB 1070, the Arizona law on immigrants and the police.   I am reprinting them here.  It is not just those of us outside of Arizona that are alarmed at what is happening there and the attitude towards immigrants but those that live and work there.  His remarks came at an interfaith press conference about the bill becoming law!

April 28, 2010

Eight clergy representing different Christian denominations, Sikh and Jewish held a press conference at noon today at Southside Presbyterian Church to denounce SB 1070 (The Arizona Immigration Law).

We all criticized the Governor and our state legislators for signing into law a bill that so apparently is discriminatory and dehuminizing. Many of the those who spoke assured those present that they would continue to send their faithful into the desert to save human lives. They would continue to feed and care for those in need. Finally, that they would provide a sanctuary where these people could pray without the threat of arrest. There was a call to resist this law; although no specifics were given.

There will be a rally at Armory Park on Saturday and a gathering of Tucson clergy next Wednesday morning at Southside.

The following are my remarks:

I would like to begin my remarks this afternoon by telling you that I am a fifth generation American. As an American and as a leader of my faith community, I find this law reprehensible.

For the past seven years in southern Arizona, the religious communities, the Border Patrol, and state,local, and federal authorities have worked closely to insure that human beings crossing our borders, through the harshest landscape they could imagine, are treated with respect, dignity and caring. Prior to 1995, this was not necessary – no one died. Since our government has erected physical impediments in border towns in California, Texas and Arizona, thousands of human beings have lost their lives. Our job, as people of faith, is to support human dignity, support human life, support human rights from our teachings of love, justice and love. 17 times scripture says “love the stranger.” Only once do we read, “love your neighbor.” We are hear today to answer the call of our God to insure not only that we love the stranger: but that our government and their agencies love the stranger as well!

On January 20, 1961 we heard these words, “We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world. ”

“To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge—to convert our good words into good deeds—in a new alliance for progress—to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty. ”

Fifty years ago, President Kennedy reminded us of our commitment to human rights.

Fifty years ago that president reminded us of our national obligation to our neighbors to the south, to assist men and women there in casting off the chain of poverty.

Today, we are poor representatives of that call to action.

Today, we are witness to an atrocious attempt to cast off that ancient cry: to end tyranny, to end poverty, to stand and live in a country that supports each other, our neighbors and the stranger in our midst. This immigration law is an affront to the ideals our ancestors fought and died for 234 years ago. it is an affront to the religious values established on Mount Sinai over 3300 years ago.

We should be standing here today in celebration rather than in protest. Today we should be celebrating that in a country that stands for liberty and justice for all, we have conquered slavery, we have conquered prejudice against blacks, Jews, women and individuals with disabilities. No, today we protest a law that not only puts fear into the hearts of those who do not live here legally; but also puts fear into the hearts of citizens of the United States and fear into the hearts of any visitor visiting this country.

If you are any black person or blond person, asian person with an accent, you should feel threatened by this law today. According to my reading of the law, our law enforcement officials should be suspicious of any person who speaks with any accent, because why shouldn’t he “reasonably” think you might be an undocumented alien. If you are blond and blue eyed, from a Scandinavian country, and you can not properly identify yourself, then you will be detained and brought to a law enforcement officer who is authorized to verify or ascertain an alien’s immigration status.

But of course, we know which “aliens” this legislation is really being directed towards.

The Prophet Micah demands in God’s name that we “live justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.” This legislation is an affront to God’s command. It is an affront to human dignity and to human rights. It is makes a segment of our community, who are here legally, afraid and unsure how equal they are in the eyes of the law. And this law is the embodiment of hubris and arrogance to all.

As religious faithful we must stand up and say no! This piece of legislation is this close to having those who look Hispanic this close to be wearing a badge like the Jews a generation ago had to wear in Nazi occupied Germany and other countries prior and during World War II. I believe that every citizen of the United States on the day this law is to be enforced should wear on our clothing a badge that reads:

“I am an alien and I am undocumented.”

EXCERPT FROM SB1070

FOR ANY LEGITIMATE CONTACT MADE BY AN OFFICIAL OR AGENCY OF THIS STATE OR A COUNTY, CITY, TOWN OR OTHER POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS STATE WHERE REASONABLE SUSPICION EXISTS THAT THE PERSON IS AN ALIEN WHO IS UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES, A REASONABLE ATTEMPT SHALL BE MADE TO DETERMINE THE IMMIGRATION STATUS OF THE PERSON. THE PERSON’S IMMIGRATION STATUS SHALL BE VERIFIED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PURSUANT TO 8 UNITED STATES CODE SECTION 1373(c IN THE ENFORCEMENT OF THIS SECTION, THE FINAL DETERMINATION OF AN ALIEN’S IMMIGRATION STATUS SHALL BE DETERMINED BY EITHER:1. A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER WHO IS AUTHORIZED TO VERIFY OR ASCERTAIN AN ALIEN’S IMMIGRATION STATUS. A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER OR AGENCY COMMUNICATING WITH THE UNITED STATES IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT OR THE UNITED STATES BORDER PROTECTION PURSUANT TO 8 UNITED STATES CODE SECTION 1373(c).

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