Phil Gordon: This is not my Arizona

  • Article by: PHIL GORDON
  • Updated: April 27, 2010 - 10:05 PM

PHOENIX -- As an immigration bill that nationally embarrasses Arizona becomes bad law, our best hope in my hometown is that the rest of America doesn't do to Arizona what the legislation requires our police officers to do to people with brown skin: "Profile" them based on stereotypes and insufficient information.

Arizona is not seething with hatred, nor eager to trample the civil rights of residents in haphazard pursuit of illegal immigrants. Our state is frustrated. We've become ground zero in the battle over illegal immigration because of years of lapsed federal border security.

Those who have pointed out that the legislation is surely unconstitutional have been viciously attacked. Those unimpressed by the after-the-fact training for law enforcement proposed Friday by Gov. Jan Brewer have been brushed aside. Those who have raised concerns about the details (perhaps noting that its "reasonable suspicion" standard for police stops of those who look illegal is overly broad) have been met not with facts but with slurs against their character, patriotism and respect for the Constitution.

We in Arizona do respect the Constitution, just as we respect the hard work and sacrifices of the many immigrants who have contributed to making our state a diverse, welcoming place. Opponents of this legislation are many, and can no longer be silent if the price of silence is allowing the vocal, spiteful few to rule. All of us, from business leaders to police chiefs, elected representatives to church groups, will continue to pressure Brewer. As we see it, the governor must call a special session of our legislature to fix the act's myriad flaws.

Meanwhile, we will continue to work with Washington to permanently secure the Arizona border, where last year 500,000 illegal immigrants were apprehended. Our aim is nothing short of comprehensive immigration reform, a new policy that cracks down on predators and criminals who have entered the United States illegally even as it establishes a path to legal residency for law-abiding immigrant neighbors who want nothing more than the chance to live a productive life.

The Arizona I've known since moving here from Chicago as a boy is the birthplace of Cesar Chavez; it's a free-thinking, hospitable state capable of balancing great natural beauty and cultures of all sorts. This place we've heard about lately, the Arizona willing to risk economic boycotts and international ridicule in the pursuit of an ugly, discriminatory law? I don't recognize it.

But I do recognize those responsible for this humiliating moment. They are small-minded and full of hate, and they in no way speak for Arizona.

Phil Gordon, a Democrat, has been mayor of Phoenix since 2004. He wrote this article for the Washington Post.

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