For over 70 years, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) has advocated on behalf of immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers who hope to build a better life for themselves and their children. Informed by Jewish values and traditions, JCPA supports federal immigration and refugee policy that balances national security concerns with the protection of civil and human rights. We believe that effective enforcement can only be accomplished as part of comprehensive immigration reform that upholds American values of refugee protection, family reunification, and economic opportunity.
JCPA advocates for reforms that would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, especially those brought to the U.S. as children, while prioritizing more evidence-based border security and enforcement that remains consistent with humanitarian values and protects civil, human, and workers’ rights. Our immigration system should reflect the best of our national values: equality, fairness, due process under the law, and respect for human dignity.
Over the past year, the Administration has instituted a number of changes to U.S. immigration and refugee policies, such as reducing U.S. refugee admissions, separating and detaining families, terminating Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and restricting entry for refugees from predominantly Muslim countries. Below is a brief overview of some of our positions.
Keep Our Nation’s Doors Open to Refugees and Asylum Seekers
The U.S. refugee resettlement cap is currently set at just 45,000 for FY18, the lowest ceiling set by any president since the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program was established in 1980. It is unlikely that the U.S. will resettle even that many, despite the unprecedented refugee crisis. The United Nations estimates that the number of displaced people due to conflict, violence, and persecution is now 68 million, or 1 in every 100 people globally. By law, the President must set the yearly ceiling for refugee admissions by September 30 after “appropriate consultation” with Congress. Though largely ignored, the stipulation “appropriate consultation” remains an important tool that Congress can to enhance oversight.
• Congress must support a refugee resettlement cap of at least 75,000 in FY19, which is already insufficient, especially given the severity of the refugee crisis. We also urge Congress to provide the necessary oversight to ensure that the United States actually resettles 45,000 refugees in FY18. In order to reach this target, the U.S. must resettle 3,750 refugees per month. We are already thousands of refugees behind where it should be if we are to have any chance of meeting this goal. As a nation built by immigrants and refugees, the U.S. should seek to maximize, not minimize, the number of people we welcome and protect. Family reunification and generous refugee admissions must remain cornerstones of our immigration policy.
• Closing our nation’s doors to immigrants and refugees would contradict the fundamental Jewish belief in “welcoming the stranger.” The Jewish community has always been deeply committed to maintaining a generous immigration system. We champion a fair and generous legal immigration policies as an expression of our country’s core values of refugee protection, family reunification, and economic opportunity.
• The U.S. has one of the most stringent vetting programs in the world. Our immigration policy must balance national security concerns with the protection of civil and human rights. We cannot let our concerns about radical Islam undermine a core national purpose—providing a home for immigrants. The American immigrant experience is one of our country’s greatest sources of strength. Newcomers are essential to the fabric of our society, enriching our culture and economy.
End Family Separation and Detention
JCPA urges the Administration to immediately rescind its new “zero tolerance” policy and stop detaining and separating families. Traumatizing children and treating immigrants and asylum seekers as criminals by prosecuting them, tearing apart their families, or imprisoning them in dangerous conditions violates the values of family unity, dignity, and justice we hold dear as both Jews and Americans.
In just under two months, the Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy of criminally prosecuting all adults who cross the border, including families and first-time offenders, led authorities to separate over 2,300 children from their parents. Although a federal court ordered the Administration to halt most separations, stop deporting parents without their children, and reunite separated children, the Administration has already failed to meet the court-mandated July 26 reunification deadline. Hundreds of children remain without their parents. Instead the government is circumventing the court by increasing short-term family detention and expediting deportations without adequate due process.
• Congress must urge the Administration to end the “zero tolerance” policy, which remains in force, and immediately reunify all separated families. The Administration can end “zero tolerance” at any time, without legislation. Separating children inflicts irreparable psychological trauma on both parents and children, many of whom have already experienced trauma. Most of these families are fleeing violence or coercion in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, countries with the world’s highest murder rates. In the face of such suffering, the United States should maintain support for fair and generous immigration policies as an expression of our country’s core value of refugee protection.
• Members must not increase funding for family detention and reject all proposals that would expand child detention, with or without their parents. Jailing asylum seekers and children is inhumane and cruel. The Administration is pushing Congress to overturn the health and welfare standards that protect children from long-term detention so that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can jail families indefinitely, despite widespread opposition from medical professionals and ongoing reports of abuse.
• Abuse in immigration detention is systemic, and has been for years according to Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General. Recently, the bipartisan leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee recently called for a federal investigation into the “extremely disturbing” reports of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse of detainees, including minors in ICE custody. More people died in immigration detention in 2017 than any year since 2009, which experts believe were linked to substandard medical care. Children and parents have detailed ongoing issues, such as inadequate medical care, denial of food and clean water, and lack of access to basic sanitation in ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention facilities.
• Congress must enhance oversight and accountability of immigration enforcement agencies. A recent Inspector General report found that ICE’s inspections and monitoring of detention facilities are ineffective and inadequate, which is particularly disturbing given the long-term pattern and severity of abuse allegations in immigration detention. JCPA is also concerned about ICE’s failure to keep records of the people it was separating and where it sent them, with no reunification plan in place. The agency’s practices have forced absurd policies, such as toddlers representing themselves in immigration court and officials deporting hundreds of parents without their children. There are also pending lawsuits alleging that ICE and CBP agents routinely engage in fraud and abuse to expedite deportations and prevent immigrants from applying for asylum.
• Congress should reinstate and fund effective, humane community-based alternatives to detention. For example, the Family Case Management Program, which the Administration ended in 2017, released families together, without ankle monitors, and ensured compliance by providing them with case management and legal counseling to help them navigate the asylum application process and immigration court proceedings. The program had a 99.6% appearance rate at immigration court hearings and a 75% appearance rate for deportations, at a cost of just $36 a day per family. Meanwhile, detaining a family costs almost $800 a day.
Pass a Clean Dream Act
By refusing to hear a California legal case regarding DACA, the Supreme Court has granted over 800,000 Dreamers a temporary reprieve from detention and deportation at least through the fall. However, a permanent solution is still needed. Under DACA, eligible Dreamers voluntarily shared their personal information with the federal government and passed extensive background checks, enabling them to live, work, and study without fear of deportation. Ending protections inflicts needless suffering, separates families, and will cost our economy billions over the next decade.
• Congress must immediately pass a clean Dream Act. This bipartisan bill would grant permanent residence status and provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers who graduate from U.S. high schools and attend college, enter the workforce, or enlist in the military. While DACA provided temporary relief, these young people deserve the chance to live, study, and work in the U.S. without constant fear of detention and deportation.
• Effective enforcement can only be accomplished as part of comprehensive immigration reform that balances security standards with the protection of civil and human rights. Congress should only support bipartisan legislation that would provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, and reject partisan bills that seek to increase border security and enforcement with comprehensive reform. JCPA believes that such reforms must uphold American values of refugee protection, family reunification and economic opportunity.
• Enforcement actions conducted in homes and workplaces should be narrowly tailored, respectful of human rights, and conducted in a manner consistent with due process. Such action can cause needless trauma and hardship, separating families and threatening the basic rights of immigrants and U.S. citizens alike. Enforcement efforts—particularly detention and deportation—should not target or unintentionally ensnare undocumented immigrants seeking economic opportunities who have committed no crime other than illegally crossing the border.
Overturn the Travel Ban
We are deeply disappointed with the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in Trump v. Hawaii upholding the Administration’s “travel ban” barring immigrants and visitors from five Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for an indefinite period of time. The ban has been in effect since December 2017. JCPA has opposed this policy since its first iteration, concerned about the ban’s discriminatory nature and the suffering it would inflict on both American citizens and those seeking refuge in the United States.
The Jewish people know firsthand the consequences of turning away those fleeing persecution. Based on our own immigrant experience and Judaism’s imperative to welcome the stranger, JCPA has advocated for more than 70 years on behalf of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. We publicly stated our opposition and signed on to amicus briefs in court cases challenging the travel bans. Most recently, JCPA joined the Anti-Defamation League and several other Jewish groups in filing an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold lower court rulings that blocked the President’s prohibition on travel to the United States from six majority-Muslim nations.
• We call on Congress to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to revoke the President’s authority to advance a policy inimical to our values. In its ruling, the Supreme Court affirmed the President’s authority to implement a policy motivated by religious bias. It is our obligation to work to change policies that may be legal, but still unjust and immoral.