Of Note: The Promise of Freedom in America on July 4th

Posted by Gideon Aronoff on Thu, Jul 02, 2009 at 9:42 am

As we prepare to celebrate the 233rd birthday of the United States, my thoughts go to the role that HIAS is playing in the lives of today’s refugees and immigrants – and in our country as well.

A Yeshiva student, originally from Yemen, who HIAS recently successfully represented in an asylum case, made a moving statement on the promise of freedom in America. He declared:

“I would like to learn English and be able to participate in American society to the fullest, and no longer be considered a second class citizen because I am Jewish. I would like to further my education by taking English classes and learn to read and write English on my own. I want to integrate into American society while still maintaining my observance of Judaism and Jewish traditions. I want to get married and raise a family so that I can live a life of freedom and the American dream.”

The emotion of the Yeshiva student’s words mirror the hopes for a new life in America expressed by Wedjan Adam, a Darfuri refugee who was separated from her daughter Wesal for more than two years because of a technicality in U.S. immigration law. After HIAS and her pro-bono attorneys – one of whom is an activist in our HIAS Young Leaders NY chapter – succeeded in winning humanitarian parole for the young girl, Wejdan declared, “Before I couldn’t do anything because I was separated from my daughter” – who Wedjan describes as “a piece of my heart.” Wedjan continued, “Now I can think about studying, working, and making a life.” This happy story is one of a family reunited and – with the suffering and separation ended – also the beginning of a new future of contributions to society.

While we join in the happiness of these two families, so many others remain in similar situations of danger and distress. And so, as we celebrate this 233rd year of our country’s existence, among the many challenges HIAS faces are seeing that all Yemeni Jews in danger find safety in Israel, the United States, or elsewhere and ensuring that legislation is enacted that the hundreds of other families like that of Wesal Adam who are needlessly being separated can be reunited in the United States.

This year, we also have a challenge to build a powerful and engaged constituency for real comprehensive immigration reform. If we play our part, we can help make last week’s meeting between the Obama Administration and bi-partisan leadership in Congress the launching pad for a reform effort that will finally fix our broken immigration laws and end America’s defacto illegal immigration system. This work, while difficult, will help make our country more humane and more secure for the future, and will help realize the promise of the American dream for both our new immigrants and the country as a whole.

Warm wishes for a joyful and meaningful Independence Day.

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