Arizona Advocacy Adventures
Posted by Genever McBain on Wed, Apr 28, 2010 at 16:28 pm
Below are the reflections of Viktor Morozov, a recent graduate of Arizona State University who participated in the HIAS Young Leaders Advocacy Mission to Washington, DC in September 2009. He and his family were assisted by HIAS in coming to the US from Kiev, Ukraine in 1994.
As I write this blog, my home State of Arizona has passed one of the most controversial, toughest and – in my opinion – unconstitutional anti-immigrant laws. SB 1070, as it’s known, gives law enforcement the right to question and detain anyone they suspect to be an illegal immigrant (of course, with “reasonable suspicion”). I’m quite outraged, embarrassed, and saddened that my state could pass such legislation. This law has the potential to trounce the civil right of all immigrants. This is why HIAS and similar organizations are important: they fight to help protect immigrants, who may not have the power or resources to do so on their own, and defend their rights. One of the key ways we can make an impact is by lobbying on the national and, more importantly, the local level in our communities.
A little over a month ago I set up an in-district lobbying visit with Elizabeth Higgins, a staffer for Representative Harry Mitchell. I wanted to do this because I felt obligated due to my past. While I may not look it or sound it, I am an immigrant from the Ukraine. Like many other families, HIAS was instrumental in helping my family and me immigrate to the United States in 1994. Not only did HIAS give me the opportunity for a new life but saved me from the discrimination I could have faced due to my Jewish heritage. In addition, I want to help other immigrant families because I truly understand the difficulties of being a stranger in a foreign country.
The whole lobbying visit at first was kind of intimidating and nerve racking; I really didn’t know what to expect. I had done a national lobbying visit before with a big group of HIAS members, but for my local visit I was on my own. It was a little scary especially when you have no one to have your back. As soon as it began, the nervousness went away and it turned into just a normal conversation between myself and Mrs. Higgins. We talked about my past, HIAS, Representative Mitchell’s views on immigration reform, and the problems with our current immigration system.
During my visit I focused on total immigration reform. I believe that many people don’t really understand how flawed our current immigration system is and how it contributed to the rise of illegal immigration in the United States. I explained how families face many hurdles attempting to get their relatives into the country legally, as well the discrimination students face in our local colleges because they came with their parents illegally to this country. In addition, I presented solutions to these problems: the Reuniting Families and Dream Act.
Connecting with our local political leaders is very important to not only have an impact on our own state but at the national level. Right now is the perfect time to contact your local representative and explain the problems with our current immigration system. The new Arizona anti-illegal immigrant law has created a fallout that has propelled immigration reform into the spotlight; it’s time for us to capitalize and create sustainable changes on the local, state and national level.