AILA Executive Committee Responds to Attack Against AILA Executive Director
Dear AILA Members:
As you may be aware, Fox News yesterday published a vicious attack on our Executive Director, Jeanne Butterfield, on their website. This article continues a smear campaign against Jeanne and other leaders of the pro-immigration movement, including Frank Sharry of the National Immigration Forum and Rick Swartz of Rick Swartz Associates, that was started early in 2002 by members of the restrictionist movement--repeated in print previously by Mark Krikorian, Rep. Tom Tancredo, Jim Edwards (a former Hill staffer) and others.
The tactics being used include dragging out elements of these leaders' respective political histories and work, distorting and taking that work out of context, and attempting to paint them all as "open border" radicals and communist and terrorist sympathizers. These tactics are nothing short of McCarthyist tactics. They are designed to smear individuals and distract our community from the urgent work at hand--to advocate responsible and fair policies in the wake of the horrendous terrorist attacks of September 11, and to push forward a creative and proactive agenda that has evolved as the result of the U.S./Mexico talks and of forward-looking policies that are responsive to economic realities in this country. We cannot let these tactics distract us.
Jeanne's own history before she came to AILA included active work over many years on the issue of Israeli/Palestinian peace and Palestinian human rights. She worked with the Palestine Solidarity Committee, an American organization focused on educating the American public about the nature of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and advocating for Palestinian rights. She served at the invitation of the United Nations as chairperson of the "North American Coordinating Committee for NGOs on the Question of Palestine". She wrote and spoke extensively on the Palestinian issue, chaired several UN regional NGO conferences on the "Question of Palestine", and led several human rights delegations to the region. The organizations she worked with ceased to exist in the early 1990s, before she came to work at AILA in 1993.
We all know that AILA members have a broad range of views on Middle East issues. These issues are not within the scope of AILA's mission, and Jeanne's work for AILA has had nothing to do with these issues, although she and many AILA members may hold, and are entitled to hold, a wide range of views on these and other political issues.
Jeanne recently received AILA's Founders Award in recognition for her significant achievements and impact on the field of immigration law since 9/11. Jeanne has been instrumental in building bridges to other immigrant advocacy organizations and interest groups. With grace and determination, she has risen to become one of the most respected spokespersons on immigration policy in the United States. Jeanne's perspective on immigration law and policy issues is routinely sought by members of Congress, federal agencies, and the national media. Known for her excellent diplomatic and advocacy skills, Jeanne frequently has been invited to present AILA's position on legislative issues during Congressional hearings. Jeanne is respected by members of Congress and their staffs, even those who do not always agree with AILA, because her command of the issues and integrity are unquestioned.
Jeanne is being attacked because she is an effective leader and advocate for fair and just immigration policies. Attempts to smear her or somehow paint her as a "terrorist" sympathizer should be seen for what they are--attempts by immigration restrictionists who are losing the battle for the hearts and minds of the American people to discredit those of us who work hard to ensure that our nation honors and continues its history as a nation of immigrants!
Let's turn our attention to the real battles at hand: the strengthening of our liaison work with the new Department of Homeland Security, the passage of the DREAM Act to allow undocumented children to pursue college educations, the availability of visas for highly skilled professionals who are essential to the U.S. economy, the restoration of due process and civil liberties for millions of immigrants facing deportation, and the eventual passage of new immigration legislation that will allow those from the world over who want to live in America and continue to build this great nation to do so safely and legally.
We urge you to log on to AILA InfoNet, go to the Advocacy Center, and voice your real concerns to those who represent us in Congress!
AILA Executive Committee
Palma Yanni, President
Paul Zulkie, President-Elect
Deborah Notkin, First Vice President
Carlina Tapia-Ruano, Second Vice President
Kathleen Walker, Treasurer
Charles Kuck, Secretary
Jack Pinnix, Immediate Past President
Denyse Sabagh, General Counsel