HIAS: Virginia Congressman's Letter an Attack on American Values

Posted on Thu, Dec 28, 2006 at 12:28 pm

(New York City)– Officials at HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, are alarmed and outraged by Rep. Virgil Goode’s (R-Va.) recent remarks regarding Rep.-elect Keith Ellison’s (D-Minn.) desire to use the Koran at his private swearing-in ceremony. In a constituent letter, Rep. Goode cited Rep. Ellison’s choice to be sworn in with the Koran as an example why America should restrict immigration.

“Despite the fact that Congressman Ellison is a native-born American citizen who was raised Catholic and later converted to Islam, Congressman Goode blames immigration for causing the demise of American values,” says Gideon Aronoff, president and CEO of HIAS. “This is a transparent conflation of unrelated facts and ethnic and religious stereotypes, and amounts to an attack of core American values. It’s very sad.”

“We are keenly aware,” says Aronoff, “that America’s immigration system is indeed broken, as evidenced by the millions of undocumented immigrants living and working in the shadows of American society.” Yet immigration policy can be crafted, he asserts, to serve America’s interests and values by creating a safe, secure, and humane immigration system, “and not, as Congressman Goode’s approach suggests, by closing off America’s borders to immigrants of specific races, nationalities and religious beliefs.”

For years HIAS has been at the forefront of advocating that America’s values and interests can and should be preserved through comprehensive reform that: establishes more realistic and generous immigration policies that meet the needs of employers, workers, and families; employs border protection policies that are targeted and effective while also consistent with American humanitarian values; provides a rational and reasonable way for undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. to come out of the shadows and become full and productive members of society; and promotes citizenship and the integration of newcomers.

In the letter, Rep. Goode expressed his fear “that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.”

Aronoff counters Rep. Goode’s alarmist tone: “America is in fact made strong by its values of religious freedom, tolerance and diversity. We have a long and proud tradition of welcoming newcomers, and that tradition is bolstered by the many contributions that immigrants have made to our country over our history. To suggest that America should close its borders to Muslims, or to other groups of immigrants undermines the very principles upon which this nation is built.”

“Congressman Goode’s remarks also ignore the fact that nearly all Americans are immigrants or are the descendants of immigrants who came to this country seeking freedom and opportunity. To deny our history and conjure fear of others does nothing to ‘preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America,’ but instead flies in the face of those very values and beliefs that we all hold so dear.”