HIAS at White House to Discuss Immigration Reform with President Obama

Posted on Fri, Mar 08, 2013 at 15:42 pm

(New York, NY) – Mark Hetfield, President & CEO of HIAS, was one of 14 leaders of faith-based organizations invited to meet with President Obama today to discuss his commitment to Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). HIAS, the global migration agency of the American Jewish community, was the only Jewish organization present at the meeting.

The President emphasized the great importance of CIR to his Administration and the faith groups in the dialogue agreed it is their highest priority.

Hetfield urged the President: “In order to create a feeling of welcome in this country, it is imperative that we strike the word ‘alien’ from our Immigration and Nationality Act, where it appears 2,399 times.”

He thanked the President for not forgetting refugees and asylum seekers in immigration reform, “because they, too, are victimized by our broken immigration system.” The Lautenberg Amendment, which enables Jewish and other religious minorities from Iran to seek protection from the U.S. Government as refugees, is currently in the process of being renewed by Congress after having sunsetted on September 30, 2012, leaving thousands of refugees vulnerable.

Hetfield specifically noted to the President: “It makes no sense that every year we have to fight to get protection for Iranian refugees fleeing persecution. This too should be fixed.”

Hetfield told the assembled: “Immigration was the number one issue of the American Jewish community until the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, and it remains a critically important issue for us—it goes to the core of who we are as a people.” He added that in the Jewish community, the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable—comprising representatives from 25 Jewish organizations devoted to social justice, of which HIAS is a member—has made CIR the focus of its 2013 advocacy campaign.

The theme of the meeting particularly resonated with the approaching holiday of Passover, the Jewish Festival of Freedom.

Hetfield told the President that CIR should be discussed at every seder table, including the President’s own.