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Dear President Obama and Members of Congress:
We, the undersigned Jewish organizations and leaders, strongly believe that our country would benefit from an overhaul of our nation’s broken immigration system. Our views are shaped by our Jewish religious and ethical traditions, as well as our own history in this country and by core American values. The commandment to ‘welcome the stranger’ is mentioned 36 times throughout the Torah, more than any other commandment.
Our current immigration system does not reflect our history as a nation of immigrants, does not meet today’s security and economic needs, and is not fair and humane. The estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. without legal status are vulnerable to exploitation. There are few, if any, legal channels for U.S. employers to hire immigrant workers, and tremendous backlogs in the family visa system have resulted in families being needlessly separated for years or even decades.
In the face of federal inaction, state and local legislatures have started passing restrictive laws designed to make life so uncomfortable for immigrants that they leave their homes and communities. Many of these laws have delegated immigration enforcement authority to state and local law enforcement agencies, undermining their ability to work cooperatively with immigrant communities.
American Jews know too well the impact of restrictive immigration policies, and we have seen how the immigration issue can become a flashpoint for xenophobia. We are concerned the failure of national leaders to fix the broken immigration system has fueled racist, nativist, and extremist groups who blame immigrants for our country’s problems, and has been a central factor in the spread of state and local policies and laws that legalize discrimination against immigrants.
Our leaders must enact laws that reflect the fact that immigration fuels our economy – immigrants and their children who come to the U.S. to join family or enter as refugees fleeing persecution strive for success and are responsible for some of this country’s most innovative and job-creating businesses. Comprehensive immigration reform would serve our national security interests by bringing people out of the shadows, allowing federal law enforcement to focus its resources on those who wish to do us harm. Immigration reform that emphasizes integration would create diverse and thriving communities that help position the U.S. as a model for the rest of the world.
Based on the American and Jewish values to which we strongly adhere and our proud history as immigrants to this country, we urge Congress and the President to enact legislation that:
- Brings undocumented immigrants out of the shadows by providing a pathway to citizenship, creates safe and legal avenues for future flows of immigrants, reunites families, establishes border protection and enforcement policies that enhance our national security, and accords all immigrants the responsibilities and rights required for full integration into American society.
- Fixes the broken system for admitting and integrating refugees and asylum seekers who have fled persecution to build new lives in this country.
- Includes a fair, inclusive, realistic, and achievable channel for immigrants to earn permanent residency and citizenship within a reasonable timeframe of years, not decades.
- Ensures that immigration detention laws are consistent with humanitarian values and with the need to treat all individuals humanely and with respect.
- Ensures that immigration enforcement laws respect immigrant and worker rights and civil liberties and reflect the values of pluralism and fair treatment under the law.
- Includes measures to effectively identify and prevent the entry of those who are dangerous and who pose a risk to our national security.
We look forward to working together to improve our country’s immigration system in a way that honors our American and Jewish values.