It was the shoes that got to me. The ripped up children’s shoes, coming apart at the seams, totally ruined. These little shoes sat on a make-shift altar in front of the steps of the Supreme Court — a centerpiece for a vigil into the night before the arguments in the Arizona v. United States immigration case. The shoes and a few other precious items — nail polish, a lipstick, a broken votive candle — were found in the desert, the passage between Mexico and the US. These relics spoke to the families who sacrificed everything (maybe their lives?) to reach a better life in the United States.
After a group of men and women who had come from Arizona to witness the historic Supreme Court hearing had recited the rosary in Spanish, the altar was changed over for the Jewish community’s turn. Rabbi David Shneyer led us off with songs and psalms, followed by several speakers concerned about immigration. I spoke for NCJW and shared our proud history of service to the immigrant community dating back to the 19th century Port and Dock Service on Ellis Island. And I shared the stories I heard in Alabama recently as part of the We Belong Together women’s trip to meet with immigrant women suffering under the draconian Alabama immigration law, HB 56 — the harshest in the nation. I shared NCJW’s concern that if the Supreme Court didn’t act to throw out the Arizona law, many states would follow suit, putting into place inhumane and unjust laws aimed at driving immigrants out.
After the speeches, we took turns reading stories from a Jewish community book of readings — true stories about hard-working, long-time residents of the US arrested, deported, torn from their US-born citizen children for the crime of being undocumented.
Soon we will learn whether the Supreme Court will uphold the right of states to take over immigration laws and enforcement — a function that is the responsibility of the federal government. But it won’t be soon, I am sorry to say, that Congress will pass reform legislation that will fix our broken immigration system. NCJW will continue to advocate for that reform to put an end to the trail of battered shoes in the desert.