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Consultation on Conscience: Protecting Undocumented Immigrants Facing Deportation

Consultation on Conscience: Protecting Undocumented Immigrants Facing Deportation

From April 30 to May 2, 2017, Reform Jews from across North America will travel to Washington, D.C. for Consultation on Conscience, a conference dedicated to learning about and acting upon the most pressing social justice issues facing our nation today. Among those is America’s broken immigration system and the need to protect the millions of undocumented immigrants currently facing deportation.

The U.S. immigration system is riddled with inadequacies. Backlogs in the family-based immigration system force U.S. citizens and non-citizens to wait years to reunite with family members who wish to come here, and the number of employment-based visas available is far too small to meet employer demands for work. In addition to these humanitarian challenges, our nation’s security is weaker when over 11 million undocumented people live in the shadows of society and are reluctant to work with law enforcement for fear of deportation. Today there remains no pathway to citizenship for these individuals, most of whom are hard-working and simply want to live in and contribute to our society.

The last major legislative attempt to reform our immigration system occurred in 2013, when the Senate passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744). This bill would have created a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, expanded and improved employment verification systems, improved work visa options for low-skilled workers and made improvements on border security and visa tracking procedures. Unfortunately, the bill never came to a vote in the House.

In the absence of a legislative solution, President Obama used executive power to address the growing population of undocumented immigrants living within the United States. In 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program gave over 750,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children the ability to work and attend school without fear of deportation. That program was supplemented in 2014 by the Deferred Action for Parents of American Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program, which would have allowed parents of those legally residing in the United States to remain in the U.S. and work without fear of deportation. The DAPA program was never implemented because the executive order was challenged in the courts.

Today, the need for comprehensive reform is even more urgent, as many more undocumented immigrants face the potential for deportation than before, especially with an Administration that promises to hire additional immigration enforcement officers, build a border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and increase the number and frequency of deportations.

At Consultation, we will hear from rabbis whose congregations have committed to providing temporary shelter or other services to undocumented immigrants facing deportation, and we will delve into the work for immigrant justice. On Tuesday, we will be lobbying our Members of Congress, urging them to support comprehensive reform. You can access more detail advocacy materials here.

As a nation of immigrants, and as people of faith, we must recognize the urgency of this moment. Undocumented people deserve a pathway to citizenship in the country they view as home, and we must actively resist the unjust treatment and deportation of these individuals.

Max Antman is 2016-2017 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Max is originally from Evanston, IL., where he is a member of Beth Emet the Free Synagogue. Max attended the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign.

Max Antman

Published: 4/28/2017