Jewish coalition calls for immigration reform

Jewish coalition calls for immigration reform

January 29, 2009
Written by Gregg Brekke

Jewish groups are asking the Obama administration to make immigration reform a priority for the new president's first 100 days, by suspending raids on businesses and private homes and developing a path to citizenship for undocumented families.

Progress by Pesach, named for the Jewish holiday also known as Passover, which begins April 9 this year, refers to the time when Jews were strangers in the strange land of Egypt, said Gideon Aronoff, president of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, one of the campaign sponsors.

The campaign's Web site, <>, aims to collect 10,000 signatures and send thousands of letters requesting "immigration reform, not raids" to Obama, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and other government officials over the next 10 weeks.

"Undocumented immigration is a symptom of the broken immigration system," Aronoff said. "Enforcement can't possibly be the total package that government brings to solving the problem."

In addition to their historic experiences as immigrants, U.S. Jews are reeling from last year's raid on the Agriprocessors kosher meat plant in Postville, Iowa. Roughly 400 traumatized Hispanic families, unable to support themselves and confused by their legal options, have relied on the struggling town's charity.

The plant, which had produced more than half the kosher meat in America, has declared bankruptcy.

"It's had a horrible ripple effect in the community," said Vic Rosenthal, executive director of Jewish Community Action of St. Paul, Minn., which wants Obama to issue an executive order to suspend similar raids.

During the moratorium on raids, campaign members said, Congress should draft legislation that creates a clear path to citizenship, and should strengthen existing labor laws require safe workplace conditions and ensure that all employees have access to health care and legal aid.

Progress by Pesach is endorsed by the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League and more than a dozen other national and regional organizations.

"We are confident that with a new vision of America, and the partnering between the Jewish community and communities of faith across the country, we will see and we can see, certainly soon, new immigration legislation passed," said Jane Ramsey, executive director of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs in Chicago.

A June 23, 2008 "Witness for Justice" newsletter issued by the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries addressed the potential harm of workplace raids saying, "Workplace raids may satisfy a political constituency, but they will not bring just and fair working conditions for native or foreign-born workers. Only comprehensive immigration reform with a route to legalization for workers who have contributed so much to this society will do this."

The UCC's 26th General Synod affirmed a resolution calling for an examination of current immigration policies and revisions based on humanitarian concerns. "A Call for a More Humane U.S. Immigration Policy: End Migrant Deaths; Support Immigrant Communities" calls for UCC churches and leaders to advocate for immigrant rights and compassionate responses to those displaced by immigration.

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