SEPTEMBER 15, 2022, WASHINGTON - Barbara Weinstein, director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, sent the following letter to Secretary Mayorkas in response to the treatment of Sikh migrants at the border:
Dear Secretary Mayorkas,
On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose nearly 850 congregations across North America encompass some 1.8 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis, I am writing to convey our urgent concern regarding the severe mistreatment of Sikh migrants, echoing the sentiments expressed in the letter many of our partners sent on August 22, 2022. As people of faith staunchly committed to religious liberty, we are deeply troubled by the blatant violation of migrants' religious freedom and civil rights.
Federal law protects the right of all people, including migrants, to practice their faith. However, border officials in the Yuma and Tucson Sectors are routinely confiscating and trashing Sikh migrants' turbans and denying them vegetarian meals in direct violation of the Sikh faith. Some Sikh migrants who have complained about these discriminatory practices have reportedly been ordered to eat meat or starve. These practices violate the law and are contrary to the fundamental religious freedom principles enshrined in the First Amendment and protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. They also affect not only Sikh individuals, but harm Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, and Christian migrants, among others.
As Jews, we know all too well that government-sanctioned discrimination quickly becomes a moral stain on the nation. Time and again, the Jewish people have experienced the consequences of government sanctioned discrimination and indifference in the face of injustice. It is this history that inspires us to stand with our Sikh neighbors against such egregious religious freedom violations and to demand accountability and redress.
All migrants must be treated with dignity and their right to freely practice and observe their religious beliefs must be respected. We urge you to take immediate action now to correct these harms and protect the civil rights and liberties of migrants. We look forward to your leadership in ensuring that no migrant, regardless of faith or background, will be subjected to discrimination and abuse at the hands of the U.S. government.