The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
One of the coolest parts so far about working as a legislative assistant at the RAC is the opportunity to learn about such a wide array of political issues. Coming into the job, I knew almost every bill going through Congress that dealt with U.S.-Israel relations, but aside from that I never had the time or the resources to learn the legislative landscape for issues like reproductive rights or health care or climate change. I was always passionate about those issues and I knew what I wanted out of government policy for them, but I lacked a real sense of how our government was trying to make (or not to make) those policies a reality.
Immigration reform was always one of those issues for me. Going to school with friends who are undocumented, I’ve seen how our immigration system splits families apart, and I’ve known that the system is tragically broken. I’ve been inspired by undocumented activists who have risked deportation to speak out for immigration reform, and DREAMers who have intentionally gotten detained for the sake of organizing other undocumented immigrants. And yet, I was painfully unaware when the Senate failed to pass the DREAM Act in 2010 that would have given qualified young undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. I was unaware even this past as the bipartisan Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill, which addressed most of the key issues of immigration reform, slowly lost energy in the House of Representatives. Though I cared about immigration reform, I lacked the wherewithal to realize these big events were going on.
When the latest news on immigration reform broke; however, I was engaged, aware, and upset. Earlier this week, President Obama announced that he would be reneging on a promise from earlier in the summer and delaying an executive order to provide further relief to families split apart because of our broken immigration system until November at the earliest. It’s hard to know what exactly would have been covered in this executive order, but it probably would have greatly expanded the number of undocumented people eligible for work permits (similar to the deferred action, or DACA, program for undocumented young people), as well as reduced the number of deportations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). President Obama’s decision to delay his executive order denies justice to millions of immigrant families—as Martin Luther King, Jr. would say, “justice delayed is justice denied.”
It’s important to remember that President Obama said that he is still committed to providing relief to families struggling within our immigration system, and hopefully that relief will come in as little as two months. Yet for those undocumented people living in the shadows, and the brave ones who have risked coming out of the shadows to pursue justice, the time for relief is long overdue. Undocumented people often risk their lives to come to the United States and they often risk their lives to stay here and support our economy; it is time for Congress to act to ensure we honor the risk so many people make in coming to this country.
The Torah instructs us no less than 36 times to welcome the stranger. We take very seriously this call to fix our nation’s broken immigration system. Take action to urge your member of House of Representatives to vote on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill to ensure that nation’s policies reflect our values of welcome and social justice.