Teens from California Speak About Immigration Policy

June 10, 2024Ellen Garfinkle

The RAC is proud to bring thousands of teens to Washington D.C. for our annual L'Taken Social Justice Seminars. After three days of intensive programming, learning about just a few of the many issues prevalent in our country today, all participants travel to Capitol Hill to meet with their members of Congress and advocate in support of the things they care about. 

This year, as we mark the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Access for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, we hear from our L'Taken teens about the importance of passing the Dream Act in the Senate and the Dream and Promise Act in the House. Due to ongoing legal battles, around 1.9 million DREAMers face threats of deportation and lack permanent protection in the U.S. Of these 1.9 million, nearly 600,000 are DACA recipients. Our teens remind us that the passage of these permanent protections is long overdue. 

This speech was written by Chloe O. and Ross L. from Congregation B'nai Israel in Sacramento, CA.

America is in a significant refugee crisis, accounting at roughly 26 million people. Every single one of these people are just that- people. Of the people seeking a safer life here in America, the youth make up a large portion, called DREAMers. The bipartisan American Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 16) and the DREAM Act (S.365) would protect 1.9 million DREAMers, granting them and 600,000 DACA recipients conditional permanent resident (CPR) and the chance to obtain lawful permanent residency (LPR / or a green card), as long as they meet the requirements. It is important to note that the American Dream and Promise Act will allow those who receive CPR to permit them to work legally and travel, which further protects these undocumented youth and enables them to live the life they deserve.

Enabling these DREAMers to live without fear of deportation or poverty would be a direct act of Jewish values-or tzedakah. Tzedakah is the Jewish commandment to help fix the world and our community. We are here on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism as well as the RAC, which both acknowledge the Bible's numerous commands to welcome the stranger as citizens, with a direct demand such as in Leviticus 19:34, which reads,

"The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love them as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" 

Yes, these teachings guide our action as Jews, but also align with our identities as American citizens who care. This especially speaks to us because historically, Jews have been religious refugees, similar to those who were founding Americans.

America, as a global humanitarian leader in its history, is responsible for maintaining its migration policies for those who seek refuge. The bipartisan American Dream and Promise and Dream Acts will boost the economy through ensuring that immigrants can stay and continue contributing to American society through paying taxes, working, and being a part of social communities.

Thank you so much, Chloe. I also wanted to introduce myself. My name is Ross London, and Chloe and I are sophomores in Natomas. Issues concerning immigration are important to me because last summer I started working as a camp counselor at Camp Nefesh, a summer camp just for refugee children in Sacramento. This camp gives refugee kids a fun, free summer day camp experience that helps them and their families transition to life in the Sacramento region. Camp Nefesh is completely planned and run by teens in the Sacramento area, which provides them the opportunities to help refugees who recently moved.

Going into my first time being a camp counselor for Camp Nefesh I did not know at all what to expect. What would the kids be like? Would our language differences be challenging? Or would the challenging part be understanding their customs? These were all questions in my head. My biggest takeaway was that these kids were just like us. Some have a language barrier, but nothing Google Translate can't fix. Other children wanted me to learn about their cultures with them. I learned new games and I got to know them as individuals and loved the experience every second. Coming out of that summer experience, all I knew was that I wanted to help fight for immigrant rights. I am currently planning the next year of camp Nefesh, and now I am here in Capitol Hill working on behalf of the kids I met to lobby for the American Dream and Promise and Dream Acts, which if passed, would completely change their lives for the better.

The American Dream and Promise and Dream Acts grants conditional permanent resident status for 10 years to a qualifying individual who entered the United States as a child. This will directly impact the kids many undocumented individuals of California District 6. This bill does not solve all of the issues the kids at Camp Nefesh may face, but it will definitely be a great start to advancing positive immigration policy. With conditional permanent resident status, people will be able to obtain work permits, attend school, and contribute openly to the United States without fear of deportation. It is our job as upstanding Americans to help all those in need of protection have basic rights as a conditional permanent resident. Now that they are here, we need to spend more time getting to know them, their interests and their favorite things. More time helping them learn, more time spent getting an education, and no more time spent undocumented and afraid.

I urge you support the American Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 16) in the House and the Dream Act (S.365) in the Senate and support providing permanent protections to all immigrant youth. Thank you so much for your time, and Chloe and I are immensely grateful for all of your work for our communities.

Join these L'Taken students in urging Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act in the House and the Dream Act in the Senate.

Related Posts