Posted: May 11, 2006
It’s with a real mixture of pride and sadness that I join you here today.
First, it gives me great pride to be described as a friend and ally of ADL. That gives me personally enormous pride, and my institution, The National Council of La Raza, takes great pride in our partnership, in the work that you do, and in the work that we do together. And I’m sad because this report couldn’t be more timely. Latinos and immigrants across the country are indeed experiencing an increase in hostility. We hear about it, we see it on the Internet, we hear it on the airwaves, and our communities experience it every day.
And, even as we are participating at this moment of great pride, in which immigrants and their families and their co-workers in their communities have come forward in record numbers, to say that we decry some of the uglier policies that have been proposed in the Congress, and to express our hope that the Congress will get about the business of the reforming our immigration laws in a way that really respects our nation’s best values.
We have this moment of extraordinary pride that we’ve been participating in one of the largest demonstrations in our country’s history. More than a million people have turned out and they have been peaceful demonstrations. People coming with their children eager to show how much they want to be part of this country. And, at the same time, we are experiencing an extraordinary wave of hostility, and so I thank you so much for doing this report, for documenting it, because this is something that we’ve been talking about and working on for many years; but it takes on a whole different level of credibility for others to recognize the trend, or comment on the trend, and especially because it’s you, it’s especially poignant and especially powerful.
And I guess that brings me to the other reason that I’m sorry today – and that is that I’m in some ways sorry that this institution, and all of you, have the expertise that you have on bigotry and hate and their implications for this country. But, of course, you’re an institution that came together to work on those issues and to make this country a better place by addressing bigotry head on.
And we’re very grateful and proud that you’ve taken a look at this particular piece of that issue. And I’m grateful for our partnership on these issues, because last year when some of NCLR’s affiliates started receiving threats and started getting calls at home, started working with legislators who had supported their positions and then called them up to say, “I have to take my name off of that bill because my wife got calls at home and I think my children aren’t safe anymore,” we knew who to call when we started getting those calls -- and we called you.
And you helped us figure out how to deal with those trends, and you came and participated at our annual conference where we had a number of affiliates who were eager to talk about how to keep their staffs safe as they engage in the immigration reform today. That’s a pretty new development for us. I’m sorry that is not a new development for you. But you came to our assistance and provided us with your expertise and guidance for which we are terribly grateful.
And just a few weeks ago when we started getting e-mails from the Web sites that were coming together knowing that immigrants were going to be marching on April 10 and, as you’ve just heard, some of those Web sites were calling for people to engage in violence on April 10, against immigrants who were rallying. We knew who to call – and you gave us guidance, support and advice that we were able to communicate to organizers all around the country who were working on the April 10 rallies. And they appreciate your support enormously, and so did we, and we think that that made a major contribution in keeping people safe as they came forward to peacefully make their voices heard.
This is an underreported element of the immigration reform debate; the country is in a very legitimate debate about what we do about our immigration policy, which is broken. And it’s a difficult debate; it always has been, despite the fact that we are a nation of immigrants. This has always been a difficult debate – on my community and your community - you know the history very well and we’ve lived that history.
But we are in an unequivocally difficult time and what we see on our airwaves, and hear on the radio, and see on the Internet is often terrifying and it has an impact on the very good people who are trying to get us to answers, and to reasonable reforms, and to positions where we can be working across the aisle in bipartisan ways, and across constituencies with faith-based groups, with the business community, with labor unions, and with others to get to a place where we pass reforms that really best reflect our nation’s values. And the single biggest obstacle that we face has been the impact of xenophobes and bigots on this debate. And in some cases, that impact has suggested and even led to violence where immigrants themselves have been attacked and their advocates have lived under threats.
So we appreciate your guidance and support as we move forward on this issue in dealing with those side effects of the issue in helping keep our communities safe, in helping keep our leadership secure, so that they can keep their communities safe and address this kind of bigotry and acknowledge it for what it is, and go on about the business of trying to make our country a better place.
We know that America can do better than this; we know that you know that as well, and that you come together as an institution to make sure that America does better than this. We are proud to be linking arms with ADL; we are very proud of the positions that you have taken on the immigration reform debate, but we are especially proud and grateful at your willingness to stand up to bigotry wherever it rears its ugly head in this country. We will stand with you on that challenge, and we’re very grateful that you are standing with us.