AJC?s Interreligious Affairs Director to Join Religious Leaders at Arizona-Mexico Border to Highlight Dangerous Conditions

August 24, 2005 - NEW YORK - Invoking the Jewish tradition of the religious obligation to welcome and prevent the oppression of the stranger that dwells among us, Dr. David Elcott, U.S. Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee, is co-convening a gathering of Christian and Jewish religious leaders on the Nogales, Arizona-Mexico border on Monday, August 29 to bring attention to the misery and deadly conditions faced by migrants at our nation’s border.

“Criminal immigrant smuggling gangs, vigilante violence and the exploitation of undocumented migrants have made our borders dangerously unsafe,” Elcott said. “This country’s historic role as a safe haven for those coming to its shores is being seriously compromised.”

Leaders representing several Churches, national Jewish organizations and religious humanitarian organizations from around the country will gather on the Arizona-Mexican border, including Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches; Elder Rick Ufford-Chase, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, USA; Gideon Aronoff, Vice President of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society; Rev. Lori Sauder, Executive Council, United Church of Christ, Ethan Felson, Asst. Director, Jewish Council of Public Affairs, Rev. Jan Flaaten, Exec. Dir of the Arizona Ecumenical Council, and Father Raul Travizo, Vicar for Hispanic Ministries, as well as many regional Christian and Jewish leaders.

The AJC strongly supports the need for bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform, alternative approaches to which are now pending in Congress. "Appropriately drafted legislation would improve national security through enhanced border security and effective enforcement, while protecting those most vulnerable in our society through earned legalization and increased worker protections," Elcott said.

The AJC was among several organizations that opposed the decision by the Maricopa County, Arizona Attorney's Office to drop charges against an Arizona man who held several undocumented migrants at gun point claiming he was making a citizen’s arrest. “Detaining these individuals at gunpoint was a clear act of vigilantism. The apprehension and detention of undocumented migrants is the job of law enforcement and immigration officials, not an armed private citizen,” Elcott said.

Elcott and other religious leaders will visit both sides of the Nogales, Arizona-Mexico border and later meet in Tucson for an interfaith "Witness for Life" service and press conference to be held at El Tiradito Shrine, 356 S. Main St., at 5:00 pm. Elcott can be reached at 914-391-7503.

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