By Melanie Roth Gorelick |
As we finish dancing on Simcha Torah and begin reading Bereishit, we are reminded to love thy neighbor as we would ourselves. The commandment to love thy neighbor not only applies to the person next to us, but extends to all those living in our community and society. We are commanded to care.
Animated by that core Jewish value, leaders of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) took to Capitol Hill last Thursday to join our faith and civic partners to speak with policymakers about immigration and criminal justice reform. Our neighbors are being dehumanized, criminalized, and are suffering. And we care.
Our immigration system is slowly being dismantled and altered beyond recognition, largely without public input or Congressional debate. For example:
- The current “zero tolerance” policy separated thousands of families, put children in cages, and scattered them throughout the country.
- Immigration courts shackle and criminally prosecute people in mass trials, even when their only crime is crossing the border to flee violence and abject poverty–our deterrence policies don’t work.
- Separating families, denying passports to Latino U.S. citizens, and setting the lowest refugee admissions ceiling in history is the last straw.
We are concerned that public frustration with the current failed immigration system is fueling racist and xenophobic views that blame immigrants for our nation’s problems. We cannot allow our immigration laws to become a tool for hate.
We will amplify the Jewish voices calling for more sensible and compassionate immigration policies. There has not been immigration reform in the United States since 1987. Our outdated policies are not working for anyone and must be modernized to address today’s realities.
When we spoke with our legislators, we asked them to:
- Urge the Administration to rescind the “zero tolerance” policy, which remains in force, and immediately reunify all separated families.
- Cut funding for family detention and reject all proposals that would expand child or family detention, and invest instead in effective community-based alternatives that have proved to be successful.
- Pass a clean Dream Act that provides a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers without harming other immigrant groups.
- Protect the integrity of the Refugee Resettlement Program. We are deeply concerned that that the United States will admit no more than 30,000 refugees in FY 2019, the lowest number since the program was created in 1980. JCPA is a strong proponent of increasing the refugee numbers and we still believe that even 75,00 remains inadequate.
We also cannot delay addressing the crisis of mass incarceration. The United States incarcerates 25% of the world’s population, a disproportionate number of whom are people of color. We urge Congress to move forward with measures that will reduce mandatory minimum sentences, which are the single largest factor in the growth of our prison population, and grant judges greater discretion, remove barriers to reentry, and invest in job training and educational programs that increase employment and reduce recidivism.
Our nation’s policies reflect the world in which we want to live and how we wish to engage with our neighbors. We are concerned about the country’s recent direction, but believe that when we all come together, we can make a positive difference. The Jewish community relations field is an important voice in this national debate on policies, working to ensure the safety and security of all people in the United States and that our country remain a beacon of hope for those who wish to enter. Please add your voice to this chorus.
Melanie Roth Gorelick
JCPA Senior Vice President