Jewish Leader Cheryl Gutmann Applauds Decision of Federal Judge in Arizona SB1070 Case

At a Chicago City Hall news conference, immigrant rights activists and faith leaders applauded the decision of a federal judge (July 28), putting key provisions of Arizona SB1070 on hold. Vowing to continue the fight for comprehensive immigration reform, they spoke in support of a proposal to discontinue official city travel to Arizona or business with companies located in the state.

Cheryl Gutmann, M.D., a member of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs board of directors, was among the speakers.

Remarks by Cheryl Gutmann, JCUA Board Member

As a board member representing the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs I am humbled by the opportunity to speak in support of those who have come this country hoping to be welcomed to their new home as productive, contributing members of our society. Our country has from its very inception been a nation of immigrants, a small “d” democratic nation that has been strengthened, generation after generation by their contributions. You, your parents, your grandparents, and generations before them who came to this country have built this country.

“For we were strangers too” is a phrase every person brought up in the Jewish faith has heard since childhood, a phrase that resonates with a moral imperative that inspires us to support those, who like those before us, have struggled to make lives for themselves and their families in communities that may or may not welcome them. Our Torah, our scripture, reminds us dozens of times to welcome the stranger, to treat the stranger as we would treat any citizen in our midst. Our “welcome system” is non-existent; our visa application backlogs are overwhelming and the number of people allowed to enter this “promised land” are miniscule. Suggested enforcement-only solutions to our broken “welcome system” are punitive and detrimental to the fabric of our society.

The stories we hear day after day of deportations, of middle-of-the-night raids, of families not permitted to communicate with their loved ones, or children threatened with the forceful loss of a parent are heartbreaking to say the least. It is estimated that over four hundred thousand people are being deported this year alone. And the fact that individuals, communities and even a state and its governor are attempting to usurp federal authority by exercising vigilante-like enforcement measures is not tolerable. This is not the United States that my parents who were immigrants envisioned for their child when they came to this country.

As a board member of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs here in Chicago and as Chair of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, a national organization which represents Reform Jews across North America, I am proud to say that these organizations have long and vigorously supported passage of compassionate federal comprehensive immigration reform. We join with organizations representing many faiths, with community organizations, with business leaders and with individuals who feel our country represents something better than the sentiments reflected in Arizona’s SB1070 law. We applaud the decision of Judge Bolton to block some of the more egregious provisions of this law signed by Governor Brewer but lament the fact that other parts of Arizona’s law go into effect today.

And importantly we urge everyone who is eligible to register and vote in one of the most important mid-term elections in our nation’s history. On behalf of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, thank you for including us today as together we say no to Arizona and as we say yes to civil rights, to families, to education, and to humane compassionate solutions.

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