Don’t ‘show us your papers’

Don’t ‘show us your papers’

When immigrants successfully become American citizens through naturalization, they deserve to feel at home here. But the bill signed into law by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer last month seems to jeopardize that comfort, requiring that immigrants carry legal documentation of their citizenship.
The law, signed on April 23, will be enacted by August if not overturned in court. According to The New York Times, it is among the broadest and strictest immigration policies in the country, giving police officers the power to demand documentation and detain people suspected of being illegal aliens.
Brewer, among other proponents of the law, said the law “presents another tool for our state to use as we work to solve a crisis we did not create and federal government has refused to fix.”
Refused? Not quite — the federal government may not be succeeding at battling illegal immigration, but it certainly isn’t refusing to do so. This is not the first time state or local governments have attempted to curb immigration. In 2006, the mayor of Hazleton, a town in northeast Pennsylvania, proposed a law to punish landlords renting to aliens. The law was shot down, and while it is not unfathomable to bring that power to the states, Arizona’s law is simply too harsh.
But why write about this here, in The Jewish Chronicle of Pittsburgh, 2,059 miles away from Phoenix?
The answer is twofold.
In Pennsylvania this week, several state representatives including locals Daryl Metcalf (R-Cranberry) and Harry Readshaw (D-Carrick) are pushing House Bill 2479, an immigration bill less stringent than Arizona’s but too close for comfort. Opposing the bill, state Reps. Dan Frankel (D-Squirrel Hill) and Angel Cruz, (D-Philadelphia), said in a statement, “Instead, we should focus on commonsense remedies to worker exploitation such as stronger enforcement of wage and labor laws.”
But as Jews, regardless of the state in which we live, the notion that people need to carry documentation of their right to exist in their country should strike an uncomfortable tone. Certainly these bills are a far, far cry from the horrors of the Holocaust, but as Americans, we should never need to defend our right to simply be. The possibility for severe racial profiling here is obvious; while defending the country against illegal immigration is a noble cause, it should not be fought at the price of alienating and ostracizing American citizens.