Press Release

American Federation of Teachers Executive Council Condemns Arizona Laws Targeting Immigrants

For Release: 

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Cynthia Leonor Garza

Union concerned about ban on ethnic studies and ban on teachers with “heavy” accents from teaching English.

WASHINGTON—The executive council of the American Federation of Teachers on Thursday 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,” said 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 AFT executive 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 said.

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.

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.