JRF Supports Immigration Reform
The Jewish Reconstructionist Federation continues to work with a coalition of Jewish and interfaith organizations towards comprehensive reform of the immigration system in the United States. Our key partner in this endeavor is HIAS (The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, see http://wewerestrangerstoo.wordpress.com/).
HIAS and our national and local Jewish organization partners have launched We Were Strangers, Too: the Jewish Campaign for Immigration Reform.
The We Were Strangers, Too campaign calls for immigration legislation that:
•Keeps families united and decreases the waiting time for family re-unification.
•Creates pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
•Creates a plan for future migration flows in order to protect all workers' rights.
•Empowers immigrants to fully integrate by providing financial support to local governments and community organizations that offer classes and services.
•Establishes border protection and enforcement policies that bolster our national security, while balancing enforcement with economic development and human and civil rights.
Contact Congress: Schedule an in-district lobby visit with your Members of Congress or send an e-letter to Congress asking for immigration reform.
Educate: To Educate leaders in your community, host a Rabbinical Roundtable discussion in your city, which will engage Jewish leadership on the topic of immigration from the Jewish perspective. To educate the general Jewish community, host Welcome the Stranger, HIAS' 90-minute educational program focusing on immigration from a historical and values perspective.
Spread the Word: HIAS offers religious materials on immigration, including sample D'Var Torah and Jewish holiday guides focusing on immigration.
Stay In Touch: Contact Liza Lieberman (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions, to join the national Jewish Task Force for Immigration Reform listserv, or to sponsor the We Were Strangers, Too campaign.
A Faith Leaders’ Statement on Immigration
Supported by the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation
As the leaders of different faith groups and denominations across the country, are gravely concerned with the current political and policy environment surrounding the issue of immigration. We are troubled by signs that our nation is turning away from reforming our nation’s immigration system and is instead pursuing enforcement policies which are ineffective and inhumane.
Enforcement raids, state and local anti-immigrant ordinances, and harmful rhetoric against immigrants are just a few of the signs that our nation is moving away from civil discourse and toward discord and division. As a result, immigrant families are being separated and immigrant and ethnic groups targeted, creating a climate of fear in all of our communities.
Now is the time to restart the debate on immigration reform and develop fair, balanced, and humane solutions to immigration. We offer the following principles to help guide our country in reaffirming our identity as a nation which welcomes immigrants and believes that the best of America is shown in how we treat those who come to our shores:
Anti-immigrant rhetoric has no place in public discourse and should not be used. As a country, we value civil public discourse as the reasonable way to address our problems and arrive at solutions. Inflammatory statements and dehumanizing categorizations of any person or people, e.g. “illegals”, should be stricken in favor of factual and more accurate descriptions of the people adversely affected by our broken immigration system.
Elected officials should examine all aspects of our immigration system. Examining and reforming only one aspect of our immigration system—such as enforcement---will not meet the challenges we face. The legal immigration system, both employment and family-based, must also be reformed.
Reform of our laws should restore the rule of law and secure our borders. Current immigration law is severely flawed and thus must be corrected in order to re-establish the rule of law. As a sovereign nation has the right to secure its border, any reform should ensure that our country’s borders are secure from outside threats.
Reform of our laws must respect the human dignity of the person. The adoption of new laws must be measured by their ability to uphold basic human dignity. Any proposals which can lead to an abuse of human dignity and human rights must include safeguards to protect against such violations.
Reform of our laws must protect family unity. Proposals should ensure that families are kept together, to the greatest extent possible, and that children and youth, particularly, are afforded special protection. Too often our immigration laws lead to the disintegration of the family unit and the abandonment of children.
We commit ourselves to working with our own faith communities and others to foster constructive and respectful dialogue on this important national issue. As faith leaders, we will work to ensure that immigrants are treated with respect and dignity. We will speak out and educate our communities about the value of immigrants and the important contributions they make to our lives, while fostering a climate for constructive and civil dialogue on this important national issue.
We also urge our elected officials and all persons of good will to work together to find solutions which uphold the moral fabric of our nation, protect the dignity and human rights of all persons, and restore and maintain the rule of law.
As a nation of immigrants, we must remember our heritage and return to those values which have helped build our great nation—fairness, justice, opportunity, and compassion.
Political Update: http://jta.org/news/article/2009/03/12/1003677/two-immigration-amendments-extended
New resources on Immigration for the Jewish holidays available at http://advocacy.hias.org/NetCommunity/religious_materials
See http://www.hias.org/progress for more information
Op-Ed by Rabbi Maurice Harris: http://www.jewishaz.com/issues/story.mv?100430+abraham
Sample Programs in JRF communities:
At our Social Concerns Luncheon on a recent shabbat, the topic was immigration. Two speakers from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) spoke on the topic “Religious Responses to Illegal Immigration and Initiatives for Reform”. The first speaker, HIAS CEO Gideon Aronoff, outlined five Jewish bases for HIAS’s work in helping Jewish and non-Jewish immigrants as well as in supporting “fair and compassionate immigration laws.” The second speaker, HIAS VP of Media and Communications Roberta Elliott, talked about starting the first Jewish detention visitation group in the U.S., at the Elizabeth Detention Center near Newark Airport. The center houses individuals who arrive without sufficient documentation while their applications for asylum and status are considered. Roberta’s descriptions of conditions at the center and her stories about detainees she has met and assisted were moving and inspiring. Several of our members expressed interest afterwards in following up with detention visits and in organizing a book drive for the detainees which is a need of the people there. You can read more on our website, http://www.thesaj.org
As part of the faith alliance of metro Atlanta, Rabbi Josh Lesser helped organize educational sessions documentary showing in collaboration with many other institutions. Congregation Beit Chaverim has a strong relationship with RRISA (Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta) and we have partnered with a number of families to provide support. Our school has worked with the Burmese immigrant community. This year our tikkun olam commitee is working with some Latino organizations to do advocacy against proposed state anti-immigration bills and we are planning an educational Shabbat on immigration in Georgia. Lastly, we are creating a Passover seder that explores directly immigration with the passover narrative. Rabbi Joshua Lesser http://www.congregationbethaverim.org/
Rabbi Dennis Sasso of affiliate Beth El Tzedek, Indiannapolis, IN, is a member of the Board of Directors of the Immigrant Welcome Center in Indianapolis and represented the center and the Jewish Community Relations Council at a conference to sign and launch the Rabbi Sasso's talk is attached to this page. http://bez613.org/
10 Things You and Your Synagogue can do to Welcome the Stranger- Rebecca Gould (RRC '11)
The list below focuses on Philadelphia and region, but can be adpated for resources and organizational connections in your area:
“When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I the Lord am your G-d.”
- Leviticus 19: 33-34
What can I do to help?
1. Encourage people in your life to use language that honors the divine spark in everyone - use the term undocumented immigrant instead of illegal alien.
2. Donate furniture - free pick up from your home - to furnish apartments for new refugees.
3. Go to these websites and join listservs: for state legislation updates - http://paimmigrant.org/ and for national legislation updates - http://capwiz.com/hias and www.interfaithimmigrant.org then make calls and write emails as legislation comes up.
4. Become an American friend by helping new immigrants get settled and learn about living in Philadelphia.
5. Help refugees and immigrants avoid deportation by giving tzedakah to HIAS and Council so we can continue to provide legal representation for those in need. Go to http://hiaspa.org/involved.html to give.
How can my synagogue community make a difference?
1. Create a media watch committee to respond to anti-immigrant sentiment (post on facebook, blog, write op-eds, etc.) Help people fulfill the Jewish values of welcoming the stranger and loving your neighbor by changing public opinion on immigration.
2. Join the PA Immigration and Citizenship Coalition listserv at http://paimmigrant.org/ and participate as a community in local actions for immigration reform.
3. Do an oral history project about your congregants families’ immigration stories. Children and adults can interview relatives. Present creatively and make connections to current day immigration issues. Research immigration issues and history at hias.org
4. Sponsor educational programs and invite speakers from various faiths and backgrounds (tailored for adults or children).
5. Do a community drive for household goods and other items to help immigrants and refugees. Encourage bar and bat mitzvah students to take a leading role.
HIAS and Council Migration Services of Philadelphia (www.hiaspa.org)
IMMIGRATION: MYTHS VERSUS FACTS
Myth # 1: Immigrants Take Jobs Away From Americans
Immigrants work in niche occupations, including many areas U.S. workers don’t choose to work in. One recent study showed NO correlation between high unemployment and counties with large numbers of immigrants.
(http://immigrationpolicy.org/sites/default/files/docs/Not_In_Competition_3.pdf ; http://immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/immigration-reform-and-job-growth )
Myth # 2 Immigrants Increase Crime
New immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans. While immigration has increased since 1994, including doubling undocumented populations, violent crime rates fell by 34.2%. This question has been studied for over 100 years and the findings consistently show that new immigrants commit fewer crimes than native born residents. (http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2008/03/05/immigration_and_crime/ ; http://immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/immigrants-and-crime-are-they-connected-century-research-finds-crime-r... )
Myth # 3 Immigrants Don’t Pay Taxes
All immigrants pay taxes, whether income, property, sales, or other. As far as income tax payments go, immigrants pay $90-$140 billion a year in federal, state, and local taxes. Even undocumented immigrants pay income taxes, as evidenced by the Social Security Administration’s “suspense file” (taxes that cannot be matched to workers’ names and social security numbers). In 2002, this suspense file grew by $56 billion in reported earnings, with $7 billion in Social Security taxes and $1.5 billion in Medicare taxes largely paid by immigrants who will never enjoy these programs. Immigrants contribute $611 billion to our Social Security system; a moratorium on legal immigration would devastate the system by raising the deficit 31% over 50 yrs.
Myth # 4 Immigrants Don’t Contribute Economically to Society
The immigrant community is not a drain on the U.S. economy but, in fact, proves to be a net benefit. Research reported by both the CATO Institute and the President’s Council of Economic Advisors reveals that the average immigrant pays a net 80,000 dollars more in taxes than they collect in government services. For immigrants with college degrees the net fiscal return is $198,000. Furthermore, The American Farm Bureau asserts that without guest workers the U.S. economy would lose as much as $9 billion a year in agricultural production and 20 percent of current production would go overseas. In the Philadelphia region, immigrants have accounted for nearly 75 percent of the area’s labor growth since 2000 and, when compared to native born, more are employed (73 percent versus 71.5 percent) and self-employed (10.7 percent versus 7.9 percent). In addition, immigrants have a high rate of entrepreneurship, opening businesses and creating jobs. And new groups have tremendous buying power. The growth of the Latino press is an example; at a time when newspapers are struggling for readership, Latino radio and T.V. offerings are increasing. Since 1990 Latino purchasing power has increased by 349% and Asian buying power by 92%. (Source: New Brookings Institution study, “Recent Immigration to Philadelphia: Regional Change in a Re-Emerging Gateway.” CATO Institute, CATO Handbook for Congress: Policy Recommendations for the 108th Congress, http://www.cato.org/pubs/handbook/hb108/hb108-63.pdf; Executive Office of the President: Council of Economic Advisors, “Immigration’s Economic Impact,” June 20, 2007, http://www.whitehouse.gov/cea/cea_immigration_062007.html; Derrick Z. Jackson, “Undocumented Workers Contribute Plenty, The Boston Globe, April 12, 2006, http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2006/04/12/undocumented_workers_contribute_pl...)
Myth # 5 Immigrants Don’t Want to Learn English
Immigrants and their children learn English today at the same rate as Italian, German, and Eastern European who emigrated in the 19th and early 20th centuries. There are not enough English classes to accommodate all the immigrants who want to learn English. Nevertheless within 10 years, 75% of immigrants are able to speak English well. 91% of second generation immigrants are fluent or near fluent English speakers. By the third generation, 97% speak English fluently or near fluently. (Source: Shirin Hakimzadeh and D’Vera Cohn, “English Usage Among Hispanics in the United States,” http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?articleId=10487 Pew Hispanic Forum, 12/6/07. http://pewhispanic.org/reports/report.php?ReportID=82; Janet Murguia and Cecilia Muñoz, “From Immigrant to Citizen,” The American Prospect 10/23/05; http://www.immigrationforum.org/images/uploads/MythsandFacts.pdf)
Myth # 6 Immigrants Have a Way to Immigrant Legally; They Just Need to Wait Their Turn
There are no legal possibilities for many immigrants. Visa caps, complex laws including 1996 changes in the law means if an immigrant leaves and tries to apply to re-enter, they could be separated from their family for 10 years or more. There are virtually no permanent employment visas for unskilled immigrants; the wait is 8 years and no employer will hold a job open that long. Immigrants can’t wait in line, because there is no line.
|Jewish Community Statement 6-29-05 .doc||45.5 KB|
|Interfaith Immigration Platform 2009.pdf||85.35 KB|
|Welcome the Stranger Cover Letter.pdf||668.68 KB|
|Welcome the Stranger.doc||26 KB|
|Torah Quotes Welcoming the Stranger.doc||26 KB|
|Jews stepping up efforts on immigration issue.doc||30.5 KB|
|PJA passover seder insert.pdf||32.97 KB|