HIAS Chief Attends White House Ceremony: Gratified by President Obama's Strong Pro-Immigration Remarks

Posted on Fri, Apr 23, 2010 at 14:50 pm

(New York, NY) – Gideon Aronoff, President and CEO of HIAS, the international migration agency of the American Jewish Community, was present as an invited guest at today’s Rose Garden ceremony swearing-in 24 immigrant members of the U.S. military as citizens. It was a particularly poignant event for Aronoff in light of the fact that HIAS just learned of the recent death of Lt. Steve (Slava) Zilberman, a navy pilot who died while on a return mission from Afghanistan to an aircraft carrier in the North Arabian Sea. Zilberman, a former HIAS client, was born in Kiev and came to the U.S. as a HIAS client at age 13.

Said Aronoff: “As sad as we are about Lt. Zilberman, we are moved by his patriotism and that of the new immigrants among us. This ceremony was a reminder to all of us that immigrants are, and always have been, the backbone of this country. They serve in our military, they work hard, and their central goals are to raise healthy, self-sustaining families, just like the rest of us.”

Aronoff was particularly gratified by President Obama’s strong remarks at the ceremony urging Congress to act on comprehensive immigration reform, and condemning the law recently passed by the Arizona legislature, now awaiting the governor’s signature.

In his strongest pro-immigration statement since coming to office, President Obama stated that: "Our failure to act responsibly at the federal level will only open the door to irresponsibility by others. That includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona, which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe."

If signed, the Arizona bill would allow police to stop anyone on suspicion of being an illegal resident and force that person to produce documentation to prove he or she is in this country legally. HIAS, and other opponents of the bill, fear this will encourage racial profiling and put all residents of Arizona at risk. The President also said he has instructed his administration "to closely monitor the situation and examine the civil rights and other implications of this legislation."

"But if we continue to fail to act at the federal level," he said, "we will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country."