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Rolling Back Progress on Immigration Reform

Rolling Back Progress on Immigration Reform

The 113th Congress started with high hopes of Democrats and Republicans coming together to reform our broken immigration system, with a comprehensive bill that stalled in the House. This new Congress is stuck over reforms that have already been made. This week promises to be pivotal in the fight over President Obama’s executive actions on immigration in Congress and the courts: both the 2012 action that created Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the action in November 2014 that created Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA).

Amidst the budget negotiations last year, Republicans set the funding levels for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to expire at the end of February 2015. Since DHS oversees the deferred action programs that many Republicans have protested, setting funding levels to expire was supposed to ignite a debate in this new Congress over these programs. Thus, in January, in just the second week of the new session of Congress, the House passed a bill funding DHS that repealed both DACA and DAPA. Yet the Senate, failed to pass the same bill after multiple votes due to united opposition from the Democrats.

The funding dispute was further complicated this week with a federal district court judge in Texas blocked the President’s recent executive action, the implementation of which is now stalled until the Department of Justice appeals the ruling in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. This court decision has done little to dig Congress out of an impasse, and we are starting to face a real possibility that the Department of Homeland Security could temporarily shut down at the end of the month. With the White House promising to veto any bill that would defund DAPA and DACA, and House Speaker John Boehner unwilling to introduce a new bill, the fight over these programs threatens to drag on even after DHS closes.

Last week, RAC Director Rabbi Jonah Pesner sent a letter to the members of the House and Senate, urging them to oppose legislation that would defund deferred action programs as well as legislation that targets refugees and border communities.


…The Reform Movement has long advocated for a humane immigration system, reflecting the Jewish people's long history as strangers in countries where we were not always welcomed. These experiences, and our commitment to this nation that is itself a nation of immigrants, strongly inform our support for immigration policy that is compassionate and fair. We are also guided by the words of the Torah that teach us to reach out to and care for vulnerable populations, including non-citizens and resident aliens: "If your brother, being in straits, comes under your authority, and you hold him as though a resident alien, let him live by your side" (Leviticus 25:35).


For all of these reasons, we oppose the Secure Our Borders First Act of 2015 (H.R. 399). Though it is essential to ensure the security of our nation’s border, this should be part of a larger, comprehensive immigration reform bill that looks at these issues as part of the larger immigration challenges we face. We are also concerned that under this legislation, individuals living along the border could face increased inspection and racial profiling from police, Border Patrol, and even the National Guard, potentially violating constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment.


I also urge you to reject legislation, including amendments to the DHS appropriations bill, that would stop, interfere or weaken the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for the Parents of Americans (DAPA) programs and other provisions made possible through recent executive orders on immigration.[1] While we would prefer and continue to advocate for a comprehensive, legislative approach to fixing our country's broken immigration system, the actions taken by President Obama are significant steps toward creating a more just, humane and secure immigration system. Together, they will enable people to come out of the shadows, allow communities to communicate openly with law enforcement and strengthen our national security, meet the needs of employers, and allow millions of immigrants and their families to live without fear of immediate deportation. Those covered by these policies contribute to the emotional and financial well-being of their families. They are integral parts of their communities and replied on by their employers. In many cases, this country is the only one they have consciously known as home. Rolling back DACA and DAPA would be a significant mistake…


I hope that you will prioritize fixing our immigration system through measures that are compassionate, effective and reflect common-sense values. Rather than legislation that will seriously disrupt our economy and employers nationwide, while also tearing families apart, dashing the hopes of young people, and keeping those who wish to contribute to our nation’s strength and security in the shadows, I urge you to support immigration policies that treat every individual with the dignity and respect that all people deserve. I look forward to working with you to achieve these goals in the days and months ahead.


Read the full letter here.


Learn more about our work on immigration reform on the RAC website.

[1] www.whitehouse.gov/immigrationaction

Published: 2/18/2015

Categories: Social Justice