When my forefathers came to the United States, they were pursuing a better life in the nation where Lady Liberty beckoned: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
This ethos, etched into a plaque mounted at the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, epitomizes the values that our country stands for.
The very same values that helped my family thrive in our beautiful nation.
However, we find ourselves at a crossroads where there has been a resurgence of anti-immigrant movements across America.
One movement I, as a Jewish American, find unconscionable is the “Show Me Your Papers” legislation that has been introduced in various states including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Texas.
These laws call for the profiling of immigrants by local law enforcement by questioning residents about their immigration status, often mandating them to report undocumented persons to federal authorities.
One example includes SB 168 / HB 527 in Florida. This legislation would force local law enforcement to carry out the work of federal immigration officers by having them detain and potentially deport undocumented individuals as part of their routine police work.
Contrary to what the bill sponsor claims, nowhere in the bill does it explicitly state the language only applies to people who have been convicted of violent felonies or serious crimes. This bill is dangerous and intentionally broad by implicating every level of state and local government agency with federal immigration enforcement.
Immigrant families will be split up for minor traffic infractions such as broken tail lights, fender benders, and driving without a license; which undocumented workers are unable to obtain in Florida.
Putting this bill aside, Florida is effectively a “show-me-your-papers” state already, topping the nation in the highest spike in deportations according to data from ICE. The vast majority of ICE arrests were for nonviolent offenses.
Such policies that allow the ethnic profiling of our residents are reminiscent of the original discriminatory policies implemented by Nazi Germany in the 20th century, which required that Jews wear sew-on patches so that authorities could identity us in preparation of our persecution at the hands of the fascist government.
The fact that I am able to draw such striking parallels between Nazi policies and the policies introduced by U.S. legislators would not be believed by my Dad, his brothers and millions of other immigrants who came to the United States.
Do these policies reflect the direction we are taking collectively as a nation, one towards fascism and a police state?
I do not believe that they do. The leadership that introduced and passed this legislation should be ashamed of themselves, and are contributing to the toxic debate on immigration that is occurring today across the world.
The demonization of immigrants and denial of legal status, followed by offering limited and temporary protections is not a good place to start to make this better.
All parties must come to the table and negotiate permanent protections for our immigrant communities.It is for these reasons that I became a steering committee member of the American Business Immigration Coalition, in order to elevate the voices of business leaders promoting common sense immigration reform; which is not only morally right but also fosters increased economic growth and innovation in our country.
As a nation built on the backs of the most vulnerable, we must remain vigilant and fight against these attacks on the diverse fabric of our society and value system.
I urge all Americans to take a firm stance against the “Show Me Your Papers” bills and ensure that we remain a nation rooted in freedom, compassion, and justice.
Lester Crown is Chairman Emeritus of Henry Crown & Co. and a Steering Committee member of the American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC)