Jewish Clergy for Immigration Reform

Don’t Undermine Comprehensive Immigration Reform

In June, the Senate passed a landmark immigration reform bill, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. The bill was imperfect, but represented a major step forward and was comprehensive in nature. The House of Representatives’ approach thus far, in contrast, has been to advance so-called “piecemeal legislation,” which addresses some components of the issue without addressing its root causes. Several such bills have passed through committee in the House. The Reform Movement is partnering with others in the Jewish, faith, and broader immigration advocacy communities to oppose one such bill, the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement (SAFE) Act, which was approved by the House Judiciary Committee in June.

What is the SAFE Act?

The SAFE Act would have a number of negative consequences for immigrants. It would:

  • Entrust enforcement of immigration laws to state and local law enforcement agencies. This is both a dangerous constitutional precedent and problematic for communities. Constitutionally, it undermines the Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling in Arizona v. U.S., which ruled that immigration is the purview of the federal government. On the ground, it would likely weaken community safety and increase instances of profiling.
  • Significantly expand our immigrant detention system, and weaken the current prohibition on indefinite detention for immigrants.
  • Turn those providing assistance to immigrants, including many rabbis and laypeople, into criminals, and require them to pay fines.
  • Increase spending on immigration enforcement, already at an all-time high.

Why do we oppose it?

We oppose the SAFE Act because it is a dangerous bill that would have disastrous consequences. It is also detrimental to the vital cause of comprehensive immigration reform. Immigration reform must be comprehensive: the various components of this issue are inextricably linked. Border security is linked to enforcement, enforcement is linked to families and worker protections, these are linked to a path to citizenship and a plan for dealing with the future flow of immigrants, and all of these are linked to building stronger communities across the US. These issues are inextricably linked, and piecemeal legislation like the SAFE Act will only exacerbate the problem.

Jewish tradition is clear on the treatment of immigrants. Our faith demands of us concern for the stranger in our midst. Leviticus commands, “When strangers sojourn with you in your land, you shall not do them wrong. The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” [19:33-34]. This principle permeates Jewish tradition and is echoed 35 times in the Torah – the most repeated of any commandment. Our own people’s history as “strangers” reminds us of the many struggles faced by immigrants today, and we affirm our commitment to create the same opportunities for today’s immigrants that were so valuable to our own community not so many years ago.


What can you do?

The Interfaith Immigration Coalition has organized a letter-a-day campaign in opposition to the SAFE Act, with each faith group writing, emailing, and calling Congress on a different day—for four weeks straight. Led by HIAS, a number of Jewish organizations, including the RAC, are participating TODAY. Let your Member of Congress know that you oppose the SAFE Act today!

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Charlie Arnowitz

About Charlie Arnowitz

Charlie Arnowitz is a Legislative Assistant at the RAC, responsible for civil rights, immigration, and healthcare issues. He is a native of Highland Park, IL and a 2013 graduate of Vermont's Middlebury College.


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