Saperstein: “Today’s immigrants come here for the same reasons as our Jewish relatives. They come out of a love for their families, a passion and a desire to earn a better life, and a belief in the boundless opportunities of America.”
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WASHINGTON, D.C., June 4, 2009 – Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, today joined members of Congress, leaders of the NAACP and immigration advocates in supporting Representative Honda’s introduction of the Reuniting Families Act. Text of Rabbi Saperstein’s prepared remarks follows:
For three and a half centuries, Jews have immigrated to this country in search of a better life; a life free from religious persecution and economic hardship, a life where family members have the chance to be reunited and contribute to their adopted home. Today’s immigrants come here for the same reasons as our Jewish relatives. They come out of a love for their families, a passion and a desire to earn a better life, and a belief in the boundless opportunities of America.
And yet, today’s immigrants face a broken system of failed policies and practices. It is a system characterized by bureaucratic backlogs. It is a system characterized by outdated understandings of what makes a family. It is a system characterized by the way in which it keeps loved ones apart when they should be together, celebrating holidays, birthdays, and every other regular day of the year that over decades add up to a lifetime of memories. For too long, the problems of our immigration system have prevented those memories from taking shape.
And so today we gather here to begin to fix these problems. The Reuniting Families Act will ease crushing wait times that separate family members. It will allow unused visas from one year to be used the next. And this bill will eliminate discrimination against same-sex permanent partners. In the 21st century, we know that families come in many varieties. Two people – regardless of sexual orientation - who have made a lifetime commitment to one another deserve to be together and to be welcomed into our community. This bill reflects our family values, strengthens our communities, and will boost our economy.
The words of Leviticus ring in our ears, and call us to action. “The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” The spirit of compassion that infuses those words must be our guiding principle as we work toward a real solution to the problems that plague our nation’s immigration system; one that is comprehensive and focuses on family unity for all families. Together, we can bring about this long overdue change and again make the lamp beside our nation’s golden door shine brightly.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis.