A Step in the Right Direction

Posted by Gideon Aronoff on Fri, Aug 19, 2011 at 15:52 pm

DREAMERs Mock Graduation -- 6/29/11

Family is the cornerstone of Jewish history, education, and values. According to Jewish tradition, “kin and family resemble a heap of stones; if one stone is taken out of it, the whole collapses” (Genesis Rabbah). U.S. immigration law is in large measure guided by the value of family unity, and we as Jews believe that a fair and humane immigration system keeps families together.

Throughout our 130-year history, HIAS has advocated for a generous immigration system that honors both Jewish and American values. Immigration laws that separate families or force them to leave their homes, jobs, and communities in the U.S. do not honor the basic principle that families should remain together. As Jews, we support policies that fulfill the Torah's mandate to “welcome the stranger,” as we know that effective immigration policies often have made the difference between life and death, between oppression and the opportunity for success.

To be honest, it has been a rough few months for immigration advocates—after the November 2010 midterm elections, it was clear that immigration reform would not be a priority for the 112th Congress. In the absence of Congressional action, states and localities have introduced a record number of immigration-related bills this year, with several states passing worrying punitive measures. In addition, advocates and communities around the country were deeply disappointed last December when the Senate came just 5 votes short and failed to invoke cloture on the DREAM Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship for undocumented children brought to the U.S. more than five years ago if they graduate from high school and continue on to college or military service. In his January State of the Union address, President Obama said that it “makes no sense” to deport responsible people who “could be further enriching our nation.” However, in the absence of the DREAM Act and broader immigration reform to fix our nation’s broken immigration system, deportations of innocent people have continued at record levels, separating families across the country.

But this week, we have seen a step in the right direction: yesterday, the Obama administration announced that it will implement an agency-wide expansion of prosecutorial discretion guidelines with the goal of allowing immigration officials to focus their enforcement efforts on targeting dangerous criminals. In addition, a joint committee will be created with the Department of Justice to review nearly 300,000 cases currently in removal proceedings and determine which cases are low priority and can be administratively closed.

HIAS has long advocated that the U.S. government prioritize the removal of people who pose a danger to the U.S., and we were thrilled to hear yesterday’s announcement that the Obama administration has chosen to better focus immigration enforcement resources. We must continue to hold the government accountable and make sure that resources are not focused on deporting individuals who pose no threat to public safety, such as DREAM students. HIAS plans to monitor how this new policy is implemented, and we will continue to advocate for effective immigration enforcement as part of federal immigration reform.

For more information and to get involved with HIAS’ immigration advocacy, I encourage you to sign up for HIAS’ weekly advocacy updates, and to become a part of the We Were Strangers, Too: Jewish Campaign for Immigration Reform.

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