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Reform Jewish Leader Calls on the U.S. and Canada to Commit to Open and Just Immigration Policies on UN International Migrants Day

Pelavin: On International Migrants Day, we take this opportunity, as a representative of the Reform Jewish community, to call on the United States and Canada to fulfill the Biblical mandate of hospitality to the stranger.


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Alexis Rice or Becca Nagorsky 202-387-2800

WASHINGTON, December 18, 2002 - In recognition of United Nations International Migrants Day, Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, released the following statement:

The United States and Canada have both been shaped by their histories as havens for those seeking new opportunities, free from religious, racial, ethnic, political or gender persecution. Citizens of the world, and in particular the Jewish people, have long relied on fair and open immigration policies to attain security and freedom. On International Migrants Day, we take this opportunity, as a representative of the Reform Jewish community, to call on the United States and Canada to fulfill the Biblical mandate of hospitality to the stranger.

Since September 11th, the United States has too often allowed discrimination, fear, and xenophobia to influence our treatment of immigrants. Although we recognize the need to recalibrate the balance between national security and civil liberties, we note that due process, a pillar of our judicial system, has been compromised.

Hospitality to the stranger does not stop at immigration policy, but extends to ensuring that immigrants have access to health care, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits and other work supports necessary to enable immigrants to move to self-sufficiency. We commend Congress and President Bush for beginning to recognize this obligation by restoring food stamp benefits to certain legal immigrant families and call on them to continue to turn the Biblical commandment of welcoming the stranger into a reality during the 108th Congress.

Jewish tradition time and time again emphasizes the value of respect for the immigrant. The Torah articulates a basic principle to which the Jewish people clung through two millennia of diaspora and disenfranchisement: "When strangers sojourn with you in your land, you shall not do them wrong. 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" (Leviticus 19:33-34). This principle of equal rights for citizens and non-citizens alike permeates not only Jewish tradition, but the American and Canadian legal traditions as well. As Jews and North Americans, and as descendants of immigrants, we have a unique responsibility to ensure that the rights of non-citizens are not trampled upon today.

We call on the United States, Canada and the global community to create and guarantee immigration policies imbued with justice, equality and dignity.

 

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .

 



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