The AFT executive council on May 13 unanimously condemned Arizona's recent immigration law that allows authorities to stop a person and demand proof of immigration status on the basis of "reasonable suspicion" that he or she is not authorized to be in the country.
"The law targeting immigrants is egregious—it legalizes racial profiling, generates fear and perpetuates discrimination. This goes against our fundamental beliefs as a nation, and is the wrong message to be sending to our schoolchildren," says AFT president Randi Weingarten. "We are gravely concerned that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's latest action on Tuesday banning ethnic studies, combined with the law targeting immigrants, compromise the fundamental rights that we have worked so hard to embed in our national consciousness."
The council expressed concern about the racial and ethnic undertones of these mandates—and the fact that they have now reached the state's public schools: The Arizona Department of Education is singling out teachers with "heavy" or "ungrammatical" accents and banning them from teaching English classes.
"We are a nation enriched by its immigrants, and we must value our diversity, not declare war on it. Prejudice has no place anywhere, especially in our public schools," Weingarten says.
The AFT has a long and proud tradition of advancing social justice and civil rights, and of fighting to give not only teachers, but all Americans, access to a better life. Immigration, as President Obama has said, is a federal issue that must be dealt with through comprehensive immigration reform. The AFT commends Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for taking the initiative to move forward with an immigration reform blueprint, and we encourage Congress to take up this issue as soon as possible. [AFT press release]
May 13, 2010