The Interview: ACLU-TN leader talks about new immigration law

Sunday, June 27, 2010 at 8:45pm
Hedy-Weinberg.jpg
Weinberg

Near the end of this year’s session, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a bill that would require sheriffs to determine the immigration status of anyone brought to their facilities. Supporters have praised the legislation as a step toward strong immigration reform, while detractors have said it is overly harsh and outside the purview of state government.

Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee asked Gov. Phil Bredesen to veto the bill. Hedy Weinberg, the organization’s longtime executive director, talked with The City Paper about immigration reform in Tennessee.

City Paper: Why should Gov. Bredesen veto this bill?

Hedy Weinberg: Our concern is that the legislation invites disparate treatment of minority groups and encourages racial profiling. The legislation says that the jailer, the sheriff in charge of the jail, is required to send booking information to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement if they cannot determine the legal status of the arrested person. And so the bottom line is, it requires individuals — and typically that would mean Latinos or people who look foreign or have other ethnic backgrounds — it requires those groups of people to always carry documentation with them just in case they are arrested.

CP: Some say those in the country illegally are not entitled to the same civil liberties as citizens. What do you say to that?

HW: That’s just, bottom line, not correct. The Bill of Rights applies to everyone residing in this country. The litmus test is not whether you are a citizen. If you’re in this country, you are afforded the same protections anyone else is.

I think what’s not understood and the rhetorical question that always comes back to those of us who work in this area is, “What part of illegal don’t you understand, and why don’t people just stand in line and become citizens?”

“Get in line” is what people typically say. But I don’t think people really understand that line and understand how long it takes to move through the process. Sometimes it can take decades.

CP: You use some pretty strong language in the letter to Gov. Bredesen. You refer to the bill as un-American, creating a police state, leading to racial profiling. Can you explain how this bill does those things?

HW: I think we all understand that in this country, as long as we are required to adhere to certain laws, we are required to pay our taxes — we do not have the expectation that we will be stopped on the street and asked for our papers. In this instance, this legislation effectively creates a police state by requiring individuals to carry their papers at all times so they can prove they are in this country legally in case they are arrested. When we talk about the police state, we typically think of science fiction movies … we’re under the eye of the government at all times.

It appears that there are instances that people are being arrested, rather than citations being issued, based on their ethnicity. And so our concern is that there might be more individuals arrested for a minor infraction rather than issued a citation in order to trigger that immigration status investigation. What we write in the letter was the concern that the legislation actually invites racial profiling at two junctures: one on the street and one at the jail.

CP: Do you think the state has a problem with immigration?

HW: That’s a hard question to answer because I’m not sure what “problem” means. Do I think that there is a perception among some people that individuals coming from outside this country residing in this state are creating increased crime rates and [contributing to] unemployment? I think there are people in this community who believe that. Do I think that’s based on reality? No.

But the perception is real and needs to be responded to. The problem is, our elected officials are not being thoughtful and pragmatic when they choose to respond to these fears and concerns, but they are adding to the hysteria by passing this kind of bill. And that’s another reason why the governor should veto this bill. Government should be thoughtful in their response to problems. It’s unacceptable and dangerous for our government, our elected officials, the Tennessee General Assembly, to respond — unfortunately usually out of political expediency — by passing these kinds of laws.

CP: The governor has spoken out against the legislature’s action to praise Arizona for its new immigration law. Do you expect that he’ll veto this bill?

HW: I can only hope that he will. He certainly understands [the negative effect it would have on] economic development. He certainly understands due process and equal treatment under the law. I hope he will consider this legislation, recognize its impact on Tennessee, and say that it is the wrong road to go down. It takes away the dignity and respect that all people
in this state deserve. But also, it could be very dangerous for economic development in this state.

CP: How so?

HW: As you know, Tennessee’s focus on economic development includes actively recruiting international companies to relocate to the state. It is important that Tennessee is seen as a forward-thinking, welcoming state that embraces newcomers and individuals with diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. This legislation, which invites disparate treatment of minority groups and encourages racial profiling, will undoubtedly jeopardize the success of those recruitment efforts.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

 

20 Comments on this post:

By: idgaf on 6/28/10 at 2:02

Hedy Weinberg: Our concern is that the legislation invites disparate treatment of minority groups and encourages racial profiling.

Where is the "disparate" treatment if they are already arrested for something else?

"Hedy Weinberg: Our concern is that the legislation invites disparate treatment of minority groups and encourages racial profiling."

Not if you are here illegally.

"

“Get in line” is what people typically say. But I don’t think people really understand that line and understand how long it takes to move through the process. Sometimes it can take decades."

So The ACLU is in favor of discriminating against people that follow our laws. How nice of them.

"we do not have the expectation that we will be stopped on the street and asked for our papers. In this instance, this legislation effectively creates a police state by requiring individuals to carry their papers at all times so they can prove they are in this country legally in case they are arrested."

No problem if they are not arrested is there?

Wonder how many illegals Heidi has living in her house?

Heidi do you have any idea at all how much these ILLEGALS are costing us? Money and jobs that could be spent on citizens and LEGAL immigrants. Money that stays here and is not sent back to their home countrys.

If you want to fight for anyone it should be those that are being pushed aside by the illegals who your progressive president wants to grant amnesty to when the list as you said is long for those that are doing it the right way and don't need all the social services that the illegals need.

By: govskeptic on 6/28/10 at 6:54

Congrats to The City Paper on a great editorial!

By: frodo on 6/28/10 at 7:12

As a LEGAL guest in many countries and resident in some, I was always required to carry evidence of my status in the country. That is the way the world works. For the ACLU to ignore that inconvenient truth is to betray a political agenda that has nothing to do with my civil liberties. In fact, what the ACLU supports often ultimately infringes on my civil liberties.

By: Cookie47 on 6/28/10 at 7:16

The ACLU is a group that is allowed to trample all over the civil rights of the majority. It should have been forcibly disbanded long ago.

Cookie47

By: stlgtr55@yahoo.com on 6/28/10 at 7:34

The ACLU has been totally taken over by Liberals. It started out as a good organization. It's name can fool us. It's all for Civil Liberties as long as they have a Liberal Agenda. It is no different that MoveOn.org or ACORN.

By: Avi Poster on 6/28/10 at 8:02

Superb interview ... thank you City Paper for conducting it as it adds clarity and reason to an issue many find difficult and explains why our Governor must veto this legislation. We are fortunate to have voices like Hedy Weinberg's and the ACLU's in our community.

By: AmyLiorate on 6/28/10 at 9:06

The Interview, really?
That was a nice press release from Weinberg, nothing really said other than "Hey look! Hedy is telling Governor Bredesen what to do." Hee hee isn't the ACLU really great.

Funny how she just glossed over this soft question:
CP: Do you think the state has a problem with immigration?

Barely touched on crime, after all crime is the crux of the matter since only when the person in question will be going to jail does the immigration status comes up.

She totally bypassed the concept of cost we see in keeping these people here. Such as educating their children, paying their medical care, etc. All in the interest of having so called cheap labor while we have legal citizens who are too lazy to work.

I'll consider supporting the ACLU if and when they ever figure out that the second amendment is supporting an individual right. It's not a collective right.

By: conservarage on 6/28/10 at 9:11

>HW: That’s just, bottom line, not correct. The Bill of Rights applies to everyone >residing in this country. The litmus test is not whether you are a citizen.

and what is her source on this? is there precedent? or just her opinion?

By: AmyLiorate on 6/28/10 at 9:27

conservarage

1. Go to the Middle East or somewhere that allows it and buy yourself a slave.

2. Put them on a plane or boat and bring them back here.

3. Please let us know the status of your slave once you get ashore.

By: joecarmen on 6/28/10 at 9:43

The Jewess from the ACLU says if you are concerned about illegal immigration and think it may be a problem, you are hysterical and not living in reality. Here's some hard numbers for you: 700,000 illegal immigrants in our prisons, and 950 BILLION dollars spent each year in welfare, of which a large percentage is paid to unskilled idiots who came here illegally. Hedy's primary concern is that foreign invaders and lawbreakers might feel uncomfortable and unwelcome. Well, they should be and they are.

By: Jeremiah_29-7 on 6/28/10 at 9:58

Replying to Cookie47, who said:
"The ACLU is a group that is allowed to trample all over the civil rights of the majority. It should have been forcibly disbanded long ago."

Mmmmm. Cookie, not sure what country you live in, but in the United States, "forcibly disbanding" a group -- even one that you don't agree with -- is unconstitutional. And if you read the Constitution, it guarantees the rights of the minority -- not to rule over the majority, but to insure that any majority does not "trample the civil rights" of the minority.

I'm glad that we have the ACLU to help preserve the Constitution.

By: Jeremiah_29-7 on 6/28/10 at 10:00

Replying to joecarmen who said:
"The Jewess from the ACLU says.... "

Really! And how was her ethnic or religious background mentioned in the article? I hope you grow up someday.

By: i.am.a.taxpayer on 6/28/10 at 10:20

Some of the comments by readers are absurd. These reactionary people seem not to realize that the United States has NEVER had a rational, reasonable, effective immigration policy.

Throughout the history of the U. S., the newest group which came in significant numbers was routinely deemed the "problem." The U. S. policy favors and disfavors nationals from other countries in a bizarre and inconsistent way.

This is a relatively new country compared to some, so it is really not that difficult to keep up with its history. This is a country which was made up of immigrants. The Western Europeans came here first and cheated and mistreated the Native Americans. Then they tried to discriminate against other cultures and races. Greed is not good but apparently it is universal.

By: Cookie47 on 6/28/10 at 11:00

Jeremiah,

When started, the ACLU may have very well been a good organization. However, it's now become so far left-leaning, it no longer represents everyone having equal rights under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights but instead every extreme group that wants to do away with both.

I wrote "forcibly disbanded" due to the fact this organization has been taken over by liberals so far left they would like to do away with both of these documents. No, the minority should not be ruled by the majority. Nor should the majority be dictated to and ruled by the minority - a ruling class - as Obama would like. Unfortunately, with the present administration, the majority are being ruled by a small minority. Hopefully, that will change this November and in 2012.

The majority of Americans want our government to enforce our immigration laws. It's simple. Illegals are here ILLEGALLY. They should be sent home and allowed to come back LEGALLY but only after going through the proper, LEGAL process.

Cookie47

By: Dragon on 6/28/10 at 11:17

"... it requires those groups of people to always carry documentation with them just in case they are arrested."

That is a Federal requirement. Why should Tennessee illegals be exempt?

By: AmyLiorate on 6/28/10 at 12:39

EIGHTY MILES from the border with Mexico
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzDlN7VLmXQ

and only 30 miles from the AZ state capitol?

It sounds to me like AZ is only reluctantly doing all this...

By: SargeE5 on 6/29/10 at 7:04

Let's not forget where the ACLU originated, it grew out of the American Communist Party, their ideals, and agenda are still Comminist. The ACLU is anti-Christian, and basically anti-God. In actuality, the American Civil Liberties Union, for all practical purposes are Anti-American.
Ms. Weinberg is wrong, and she is misinforming the people of Tennessee. The United States Bill of Rights does not cover, or include criminal tresspassers, and violators of the Immigration Laws of the United States. The Bill of Rights covers, and includes all American citizens, and those who are in this country legally.
It is the ACLU's intention to represent anyone, or anything that violates our laws, both federal, state, and local. The ACLU is not to be trusted to represent the American citizen, on any level. The Immigration laws of this nation are legal, and the law passed in Arizona is also legal. This country doesn't need any type of immigration reform, all that needs to be done is to enforce the laws as they are already written. If any person from any country enters, and stays in this country without permission, they are breaking the law, and subsequently required to be arrested, and deported according to due process, regardless of what the ACLU says!!!
~Sarge

By: BEOWULF on 6/29/10 at 8:10

BEOWULF: ..."she is misinforming the people of Tennessee. The United States Bill of Rights does not cover, or include criminal tresspassers, and violators of the Immigration Laws...". SargeE5, you are so right on the problem. Glib, devious, un-American ACLU spokes people and supporters are often unaware of their roots - they envision themselves as supporters of the small common man. Their "roots" ultimately failed in Russia; look at the mess that country is struggling through now. Between the "weinbergs" and "b. hussein o's" (no CAPS intentional), we have an immense problem in our USA.

By: yogiman on 6/29/10 at 10:43

Ms. Weinberg, after reading your comments about racist factors in this immigration issue, I would not say BS as a gentleman. I simply say BALONEY! Racism was eliminated in our nation almost half a century ago. But you are saying you are only representing the ACLU . I say you are representing the ACLDU. (that is the American Civil Liberties DESTRUCTION Union)

People from over the world have been welcome to our nation since it became a nation... as long as they come here legally. There is many people from Mexico already here. Does that mean the rest of them are supposed to welcomed illegally?

You say they are entitled to fair treatment being here illegally. Why aren't all of our legal citizens being treated with decor instead of so many criminal charges?

By: AmyLiorate on 6/29/10 at 1:07

I wonder if her face looked anything like it does in the photo when she heard that Governor Bredesen signed the bill?
http://www.tennessean.com/article/20100629/NEWS01/6290335/Governor-signs-TN-immigration-bill

This piece of fluff was just a good place to point out how impotent the ACLU is.

Yogiman, we could only wish that racism was "eliminated" half a century ago. Unfortunately there are plenty of bafoons around that hate someone simply because of their skin or other factors.

It's not like you can choose your parents race.