Commemorating 350 Years of Jewish Life in America, Nation's Jewish Organizations Release Vision on Immigration and Refugee Policy

Posted on Tue, Jul 05, 2005 at 13:38 pm

(New York, NY) – The Jewish Vision for the Future of American Immigration and Refugee Policy is being released this month as part of the 350th anniversary of Jewish presence in America. Since 1654, Jews have been part of American life facing both welcome and rejection. While the first Jews – 23 intrepid immigrants from Brazil – faced deportation by the government of New Amsterdam, millions have been rescued from persecution and offered the chance for a new life of freedom and opportunity.

Looking to the future, the nearly 60 Jewish organizations that endorsed the statement based their perspective on the solid foundation of Jewish ethical and religious teachings to welcome the stranger and redeem the captive, and on a history of activism on the central questions of American immigration policy.

The statement has so far been endorsed by 15 national organizations as well as local Jewish Federations, Community Relations Councils, Family Service Agencies and other organizations from 23 different states. Among the national agencies supporting this effort are United Jewish Communities, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Jewish defense agencies including the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League; and religious organizations like Agudath Israel of America, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

Leonard Glickman, president and CEO of HIAS, The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, says the vision statement was “firmly rooted in Jewish history and tradition, and applies these lessons to the most pressing public policy questions in the immigration and refugee arena.”

The Jewish community, says Glickman, has a stake in how the United States designs and implements border security and immigration enforcement programs, the quality of services received by immigrants and visitors from U.S. immigration agencies, assistance to newcomers as they move towards citizenship and integration into American society, and the degree to which victims of persecution find safe haven in the United States.

“We also have a stake as Jews in how America addresses the dramatic problem of undocumented migration. These policies will have a significant impact on our community’s security interests, community relations activities and humanitarian values,” says Glickman.

Gideon Aronoff, vice president for government relations and public policy at HIAS, says that the Jewish community faces a concerted effort by activists seeking to restrict immigration to the United States to convince American Jewry to turn their backs on its and the country’s tradition of welcoming immigrants.

“This short-sighted effort would have a devastating impact on key national interests including the vitality of the economy, national security, family unity, foreign policy interests and humanitarian values,” says Aronoff. “This statement, endorsed by such a broad and diverse group of Jewish agencies, stands as a repudiation of this restrictionist campaign and a firm and principled declaration that smart and compassionate immigration and refugee policies are at the center of our national interest and a crucial piece of the Jewish community agenda.”

The Jewish Vision for the Future of American Immigration and Refugee Policy remains open for endorsement by American Jewish organizations. “We welcome support for the project from all Jewish organizations and look forward to working with the signatories to help them advocate on the principles contained in this vision statement,” says Aronoff.

For the statement's full text, please click here.