Posts Tagged ‘day laborers’

Arizona governor signs harsh anti-illegal immigrant law

April 23, 2010

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer today signed into law what President Obama had just called an irresponsible act that “threaten[s] to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.”

The new law makes it a crime to lack proper immigration paperwork and requires police, if they have reasonable suspicion that someone is in the country illegally, to determine their immigration status. It also bars people from soliciting work as day laborers.

The President made his remarks at a naturalization ceremony for 24 active-duty military people. He acknowledged that the Arizona action resulted from “our failure to act responsibly at the federal level,” as he called for Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform.

So we now wait and see whether the new law increases or decreases the security of the people of Arizona. To her credit, Gov. Brewer spoke forcefully about her determination not to tolerate racial profiling by police officers. On the other hand, when a reporter asked her what an illegal immigrant looked like, she answered simply, “I don’t know.”

She said she signed the law to combat the “murderous greed of drug cartels, drop houses, kidnappings, and violence.” We can expect that the murderous greedy drug kingpins will no longer congregate in Wal-Mart parking lots looking for day labor.

Read The Ethics Challenge: Strengthening Your Integrity in a Greedy World

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Don’t clamp down on would-be day laborers: they’re human, just like you and me

April 18, 2010

Screaming Frog Productions has produced a gem of a movie that helped me to think about the issue of immigrants—legal and illegal—who congregate to seek work as day laborers. It was directed by Jonathan Browning and has been shown at over 150 film festivals all around the world and won over 30 awards. Watch The Job, a three-minute movie that changed the way I think of day laborers. And made me laugh heartily.

The great first century Jewish teacher, Hillel, was asked—according to the Talmud—by a cynic to teach him the whole law (Torah) while standing on one foot. That was easy for Hillel. “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary. Go and learn it.”

Hillel was expressing the Golden Rule, which is at the center of ethical behavior in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Shintoism, in fact in every religion we know of, dating from the earliest recorded history. It’s hard enough to practice the Golden Rule when your “neighbor” is literally your neighbor, but it gets progressively harder as the “neighbor” becomes more removed from one’s experience. The Job made it easier for me.

Illegal immigrants: Treat them humanely or make their lives miserable?

April 15, 2010

Ethics can be confusing. Like the case of illegal immigration: how do we decide between compassion and legality? {Disclosure: My ideas may be affected by my family experience. My grandparents came here from Russia and Germany in the 1880s, when there was no such thing as illegal immigration. You just had to be free of TB and you were admitted. Had they not been admitted the whole family would likely have been subjected to fierce anti-Semitism, then murdered in the Holocaust.)

The Arizona House of Representatives this week passed America’s toughest state law against illegal immigration. It makes it a crime to lack proper immigration paperwork and requires police, if they suspect someone is in the country illegally, to determine their immigration status. It also bars people from soliciting work as day laborers. Its author, state Sen. Russell Pearce, explains, “When you make life difficult, most will leave on their own.”

I certainly believe in making life difficult for lawbreakers, but there’s serious collateral damage here. What about the “foreign-looking” people who will be challenged to prove their legal status? Like Graciela Beltran of Tucson, who, the Los Angeles Times reports, was asked for immigration papers while boarding a bus. And the other dark-skinned people who will be “profiled.”

And along with the lawbreakers there are innocents, like the U.S.-born children of illegals, who face having their parents deported. Or who face hunger because their fathers can no longer find day work from the Walmart parking lot.

Americans have contributed to the problem by allowing so many to overstay their visas or to enter illegally. Now it seems to me that we have an obligation to be humane in our treatment.

What’s an ethicist to conclude? Let me know your opinion.