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How to Take Action to Protect DREAMers and Other Immigrants

How to Take Action to Protect DREAMers and Other Immigrants

Handmade sign reading LOVE THY NEIGHBOR


These remarks have been lightly adapted from those presented at the lobby prep session of the 2019 Consultation on Conscience on Monday, May 20, 2019.

At least 36 times, in 36 ways, the Torah commands just treatment of the immigrant. When we read this call to action and think about our own histories of migration, it is hard not to see the connections to today’s America. We have witnessed the separation of children from their parents, the narrowing of legal pathways to immigration, the infringement upon the right to seek asylum, and the stripping away of protections from millions of vulnerable immigrants, making them susceptible to deportation. As Jews, we have a role to play in fixing this broken immigration system.

Tomorrow, we will come out in full force for the approximately 2.5 million who have lost protections under this administration and now face the threat of deportation. We will stand with DREAMers – undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children – and holders of Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, foreign-born individuals who cannot safely return to their home country due to extraordinary circumstances, like armed conflict and environmental disaster.

What is this issue about?

Since its creation in 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) allowed about 800,000 DREAMers to obtain work permits and attend school, contributing to the only country they know as home without fear of deportation. With the termination of DACA in 2017, DREAMers face a heightened risk of deportation. DACA participants and applicants trusted the federal government with their names and contact information when applying to the program – information that makes them especially vulnerable to deportation now.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a humanitarian form of immigration assistance that has been designated to nationals of countries like Haiti, El Salvador, and Yemen. On average, holders of TPS have been in the U.S. for 22 years, building homes and families and becoming integral parts of their community. Over the past few years, this administration has terminated TPS for 98 percent of all holders.

Court injunctions have led to the extension of protections for some TPS holders and have allowed previous DACA recipients to file renewal applications. However, as we heard from Elias this morning, without permanent protections, many people who have lived in the U.S. for decades are now facing uncertainty about their future and the threat of deportation.

This is why Congress must pass a legislative fix for DREAMers and TPS holders.

What can we do about this issue?

In the Senate, two pieces of legislation have been introduced that would provide permanent protections and a pathway to citizenship for these vulnerable communities. The Dream Act, S. 874, was introduced by Senator Lindsey Graham (SC) and Senator Richard Durbin (IL), and would apply to DREAMers. S.879: The SECURE Act, was introduced by Senators Chris Van Hollen and Benjamin Cardin of Maryland, and would apply to TPS holders.

If enacted, the Dream Act would provide legal status to DREAMers if they meet requirements such as attending college, working in the U.S., or serving in the U.S. military. They will eventually be able to apply for U.S. citizenship. It would also allow DREAMers to access in-state tuition and college loans, making college more affordable and accessible for these young people.

The SECURE Act, if enacted, would allow all eligible TPS holders to apply for legal status and eventually apply for U.S. citizenship.

Together, these pieces of legislation would offer a path to citizenship for approximately 2.5 million people.

What are we asking Congress to do?

The goal of our Consultation on Conscience Lobby Day is getting cosponsors for both bills. Depending on the actions they have taken already, our activists will ask their Senators to cosponsor both bills, thank them for cosponsoring one and ask them to cosponsor the other, or thank them for cosponsoring both bills.

The House is considering a few pieces of legislation, which are scheduled to be marked up in the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. As members of the House are considering these new bills, it is imperative that we urge them to support legislation that provides permanent protections and a pathway to citizenship to DREAMers and TPS holders, without harmful amendments undermining these protections. To representative who were cosponsor of the Dream and Promise Act, we'll thank them for their support and encourage them to continue to support expansive protections for DREAMers and TPS holders.

The timing of these meetings is very important, and it is incredibly exciting that we will be some of the last people to speak to our representatives about the importance of protecting DREAMers and TPS holders before the Judiciary Committee takes up the legislation.

Passing permanent protections for DREAMers and TPS holders is a critical first step towards comprehensive immigration reform. We will continue to work for a more just America, one that embraces its history as a nation of immigrants and provides haven to those seeking refuge.

Can't be at the 2019 Consultation on Conscience to lobby in person on Capitol Hill? Take action and write to your members of Congress using our quick and easy action alert.

Talia Kaplan is a 2018-2019 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Talia graduated with high honors in Government from Wesleyan University, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, completed certificates in Jewish & Israel Studies and Middle Eastern Studies, and wrote a thesis on experiential Israel education and attitude formation. Outside of the classroom, Talia co-created a new leadership structure for the Wesleyan Jewish community; developed a campus interfaith network; taught Hebrew school; and interned with T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human RightsJuvenile Law Center, and Leo Baeck Education Center. Talia’s legislative portfolio includes immigration, refugees, human trafficking, civil liberties, and campaign finance reform. She will be working alongside RAC-TX on their legislative priorities.

Talia Kaplan

Published: 5/20/2019