Immigration Protest

The Latest Buzzword: Immigration

Last week’s papers ran headlines such as “5 Republicans who Matter on Immigration,” “Romney Campaign Manager Says He Regrets Immigration Stance,” and “George W. Bush Renews Call for Immigration Reform.” As you may have noticed, immigration increasingly has been in the news in the wake of the November election, with both parties seeming to agree that the system needs to be reformed, as is the consensus among the general public. But what does “immigration reform” mean? What’s wrong with the current system? And why should Jews care?

HIAS—the international migration agency of the organized Jewish community—has been involved in this policy discussion for decades. You might have heard of HIAS’ historic role in rescuing and resettling Jews fleeing repressive societies. But what you might not know is that today in Washington, D.C. we work to advance laws and policies that protect those who seek safety in the U.S. based on persecution or fear of persecution on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. HIAS also advocates for immigration and refugee laws that are humane, enhance national security and reflect our Jewish values of welcoming the stranger. Along with our Jewish and interfaith partners, as well as other immigration and refugee advocates, HIAS has long pushed reforms to the current system that are guided by the rule of law, national interest, fairness and compassion.

Unfortunately, we have our work cut out for us—the current immigration system is ineffective and outdated. Backlogs have separated families for years, and an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently live in the U.S. without legal status, which makes them vulnerable to harassment and exploitation and fearful of being arrested. Furthermore, there are not enough legal channels for employers who want to hire immigrant workers, particularly for lower skilled jobs.

HIAS is a strong advocate for reforms to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, a longstanding public-private partnership between the U.S. government and non-governmental organizations that provides initial reception and placement services to arriving refugees. As one of the ten agencies that works directly with the U.S. government to resettle refugees, HIAS is dedicated to ensuring that any discussion about reforms to our country’s broken immigration system will also include crucial and overdue improvements to the Refugee Program, such as those proposed in the Refugee Protection Act of 2011.

For HIAS, one of the main priorities for U.S. immigration legislation is eliminating the one-year filing deadline for asylum applications. This provision has prevented many asylum seekers with a well-founded fear of persecution from receiving protection in the U.S. In fact, it is estimated that one out of every five asylum cases is denied because the individual did not apply within this one year time frame. Another priority is to protect refugees, asylees, and asylum seekers who have been mistakenly labeled as terrorists due to the unduly broad definition of “terrorist activity” in current immigration law. Thousands of individuals’ cases have been put on “hold” with no ability to prove their non-terrorist status—they continue to face endless delays and even the possibility of being deported. Many have been needlessly separated from their spouses and children for many years and have little hope of reuniting with their families in safety under the current law. Policy changes to address these issues, if enacted, would have a huge impact on the lives of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers who seek safety and freedom within our country’s borders.

As a Jewish-American organization, HIAS is acutely concerned both with the security of our country and with the viability of the Refugee Program. We honor the sentiment of Jewish-American poet and HIAS volunteer, Emma Lazarus, who wrote “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” We believe our work is an expression of the values expressed in the Torah, which mandates “when a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

You might know some individuals who have been affected by broken immigration and refugee policies—they are our neighbors, classmates, colleagues, community members, and friends. Drawing from our historical context, as well as our scripture and values, we must speak out as a Jewish community to advocate for just and compassionate asylum and refugee policies, and to urge the government to devote sufficient resources to successfully fulfill the essential undertaking of protecting the persecuted.

At this crucial time—when we seem to have the momentum and opportunity to reform our country’s immigration system—we urge you to join HIAS in our advocacy efforts. You can host a film screening, a speaker event, or a Shabbat program to learn about international migration issues. Or you can coordinate an in-district lobby visit with your elected officials to discuss stories of people who have been impacted by the dysfunctional immigration system or resettled through the U.S. Refugee Program. There also are countless ways to interact with local immigrants in your community to gain a better understanding of their experiences and help them integrate into society—for instance, you could set up an ongoing service project to help aspiring Americans who are studying for their citizenship exams, join an immigrant detention visitation program, or coordinate a donation drive for recently resettled refugees arriving in your community. Contact or visit to get involved.

Liza Lieberman is the Associate Director of U.S. Policy and Advocacy for HIAS in Washington, DC, where she works to advance the organization’s refugee and immigration protection agenda by educating policy makers on issues concerning immigrants and refugees and engaging Jewish communities in HIAS’ work through grassroots advocacy .

Image courtesy of AP File/WBUR.

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One Response to “The Latest Buzzword: Immigration”

  1. Politicians, who usually read the Liberal propaganda and rhetoric in the mainstream press and rural newspapers, would do better to absorb the public reader’s commentary and blogs. This would certainly have some impact on their voting, unless they have already been corrupted by the special interests that are in their faces in the Washington chambers of power. They would immediately know that ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION is a dirty word and the majority of the American people are frustrated that legislators are putty in the hands of big business and all the other pro-illegal alien open border imbeciles. President Obama has stealthily divided the country and it’s worked with great effect. A silent invasion has been taking place for decades and the rot in Congress has been negatively impressive. With 24 million of the U.S. population out-of-work, the morons have a deaf ear to legislators as Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, who has done everything in his power to slow any bills from being read. Standing alone are two bills that could halt the encouragement of illegal aliens into this country. Both bills are extremely powerful in their effect to reduce illegal aliens in the workplace? Exhibit (1) is the LEGAL WORKFORCE ACT (H.R.2885) that uses mandatory E-Verify to identify foreign nationals, replacing them with citizens and legal entries. This updated technological computer program is able to red-flag workers who have no right to any jobs. Audits of businesses after the installation of mandatory E-Verify would be prosecuted and the principle owners and executives would prosecute, fined and even confined.

    Exhibit (2) THE BIRTHRIGHT CITIZENSHIP BILL (H.R. 140) would forever end the citizenship of unborn babies smuggled into America, to collect on public assistance benefits; a free education to k-12, free health care, low income housing. Wholly for the descendants of slaves after the Civil War to inherit citizenship, it has been manipulated to any baby delivered in any hospital once across our insecure border, or women who arrives here by international jet. Once here under this cleverly engineered law the woman gets free natal care, plus cash payments for every child she conceives. This law must only be reserved for pregnant mothers who at least parent is already a citizen of the United States, claiming citizenship for their child. We should understand that illegal aliens use this defect in our laws, to remain in this country. So the more children, the more entitlements, that is costing the U.S. taxpayer well over hundred billion dollars annually, and unlikely to grind to a halt unless H.R. 140 finds passage in the House and Senate. Another ominous situation that is the outcome of the baby automatic citizenship 14th amendment declaration, is that proliferates CHAIN MIGRATION FOOTHOLDS of family members and eventually such unconventional Presidential privileges as the Dream Act controversy. Further to this the Internal Revenue Service has remained silent and seems uninterested in the 7 Billion dollar in child tax credits literary stolen through fraud by non-citizens and even the effrontery to send tax refunds outside the country to the quasi children?


    After the requirement of The Legal Workforce bill and the Birthright citizenship bill, then the majority of spineless lawmakers can then approve a well regulated Guest Worker program for agriculture, with the caveat that when a contract expires the worker must leave the country. As an addition a more furtive effort to recruit professional workers under the (STEM) policy of highly attained skills. But outside of these jobs no more kowtowing to the 20 million plus illegal aliens who must leave or be deported. Our nation is broke and the honest, inspected and immigrants and citizens must have the priority of all wilting welfare assistance.


    America’s President” is tightening his deadly grip on America’s throat and a catastrophic coup is coming. Obama has yet to be sworn in and already he is preparing his minions for gun grabbing, more tax and spend, enacting immigration laws and bypassing Congress. Now that Obama has been reelected he is emboldened to act beyond the constraints of the U.S. Constitution, converting our free-enterprise republic into a Soviet Socialist State of government control.

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