'Them against us' approach not OK
Arizona Republic
March 11, 2008


Maynard Bell
The growing attempt to blame illegal immigrants for the social ills haunting American society is a disturbing phenomenon. The same kind of anti-immigrant rhetoric that was commonplace before World War II and blessedly became taboo has re- entered our public discourse. This is unacceptable.

Politicians and pundits, exploiting our well-grounded fears about national security and the economy, have upped the ante, demonizing undocumented immigrants.

It is convenient to argue that there is no effective way to reconcile the core American tradition of welcoming immigrants with our current security and labor needs and our regard for the law, especially during a political campaign. By pitting "them against us," they miss the mark.

There is no question that our immigration system is broken. The unresolved status of 12 million undocumented immigrants does complicate our real concerns about border security and economic recovery, but vitriolic propaganda does not help.

It is time to revive America's "can do" spirit to meet the immigration challenge. Surveys show that most Americans want those in power to address this problem in a sensible, measured fashion.

My organization, the American Jewish Committee, along with our coalition partners in the Latino community, have a long-standing commitment to strengthening our immigration system through comprehensive reform.

We believe that a generous and orderly immigration policy is central to our nation's tradition of pluralism, democratic values and civil rights. It also underscores our deep respect and appreciation for America's rapidly growing Latino population. We feel that the time has arrived to speak out about the mean-spirited and unproductive rhetoric that haunts our airwaves and discourages civil dialogue.

Let's consign our anti-immigrant baggage to the past, and show those who would revive it the door.

The writer is executive director of the American Jewish Committee, Arizona chapter.