Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) usually keeps a relatively low profile on immigration issues. Even though he is the Senate's only Latino member, he typically focuses on his role as the Democrats' top Senate fundraiser, or on New Jersey issues.
But Menendez came out swinging at a press conference on Wednesday to protest the immigration bill signed into law last week in Arizona.
"This is a slide back on the rights of each and every American," Menendez said. "Arizona has become 'a show me your papers' state. I read the Arizona law, and it's just replete with the type of broad descriptions that invite discrimination, that invite racial profiling, that invite violations of constitutional rights and civil rights."
He also vowed that Latinos would fight the measure across the country. "We will not accept being second-class citizens," he said.
Menendez joined more than a dozen members of Congress in front of the U.S. Capitol, many of them Latino and African- American, who called immigration the civil rights issue of the era.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) equated the Arizona law to Jim Crow laws in the 1950s and 1960s. "We will not be intimidated by a senator from a southern state or elsewhere," she said.
Rep. Barbara Lee, the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, warned, "As an African-American, I can tell you this opens the floodgates to racial profiling," she said. "This bill is not only wrong, it's un-American."
The members also said the state's law is proof positive that Congress, especially the Senate, needs to act on comprehensive immigration reform. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the only Republican working with Democrats on a bill, has threatened to walk away from the effort if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid brings it forward for a vote soon, saying not enough has been done to ensure that it will pass.
Arizona "has galvanized, united, fortified, focused our immigration movement," Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said. "The Senate has a responsibility to lead, and the Democrats have a majority."
Tagged: Arizona anti-immigration law
, Lindsey Graham
, Rep. Barbara Lee
, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee
, Sen. Lindsey Graham
, Sen. Robert Menendez