HIAS, Joined by Elie Wiesel, and National Interfaith Coalition, Call for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Posted on Fri, Oct 14, 2005 at 9:46 am

(Washington, D.C.) - Today, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and a coalition of Jewish and other faith organizations and leaders from across the religious and political spectrum issued an “Interfaith Statement in Support of Comprehensive Immigration Reform.”

With immigration reform and undocumented migration hot-button issues in Washington and around the United States, the faith community is calling on government leaders in the Administration and Congress, to come together in a bipartisan manner to address this pressing national problem.

Specifically, the statement urges creation of a reform proposal that includes the following:

• An opportunity for hard-working immigrants who are already contributing to this country to come out of the shadows, regularize their status upon satisfaction of reasonable criteria and, over time, pursue an option to become lawful permanent residents and eventually United States citizens;
• Reforms in our family-based immigration system to significantly reduce waiting times for separated families who currently wait many years to be reunited;
• The creation of legal avenues for workers and their families who wish to migrate to the U.S. to enter our country and work in a safe, legal, and orderly manner with their rights fully protected; and
• Border protection policies that are consistent with humanitarian values and with the need to treat all individuals with respect, while allowing the authorities to carry out the critical task of identifying and preventing entry of terrorists and dangerous criminals, as well as pursuing the legitimate task of implementing American immigration policy.

National and local Jewish groups that joined HIAS and 1986 Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel in endorsing the statement, include: United Jewish Communities, UJA-Federation of New York, Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, B’nai B’rith International, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, National Council of Jewish Women, Union for Reform Judaism, , Women’s League for Conservative Judaism, Baltimore Jewish Council, Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of San Antonio, HIAS and Council Migration Services of Philadelphia, Jewish Community Action, St. Paul, Minnesota, Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, New York.

“The reality of today’s broken immigration system is one of tremendous suffering - including the deaths of over 450 men, women and children who died crossing the border this year alone who simply are seeking an opportunity to support their families,” says Gideon Aronoff, vice president for government relations and public policy at HIAS. “It is also one of chaos and lawlessness on the border and an unrealistic and unworkable immigration process that undermines the rule of law and wastes crucial enforcement resources chasing immigrant workers rather than focusing on crime and terrorism. For both security and humanitarian reasons, now is the time to act.”

In addition to faith-based and community organizations, political leaders at the national, state and local levels have been engaged in developing plans to address undocumented migration and to achieve Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Among the leaders who have raised the necessity of solving this problem are President George W. Bush; Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.); Representatives Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.); and Governors Bill Richardson (D-N.M.), Janet Napolitano (D-Ariz.), Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.) and Rick Perry (R-Texas).

“We applaud all of these leaders for engaging this difficult issue,” says Aronoff. HIAS also supports the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act of 2005 as a particularly strong foundation for Comprehensive Immigration Reform and the most promising expression of the principles contained in the interfaith statement, notes Aronoff.

“Tuesday’s hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Penn.), is going to be an important opportunity to move Comprehensive Immigration Reform forward, and to help craft the kind of bipartisan consensus that will be needed to achieve real reform,” Aronoff says.
Thirty-six national organizations, 67 local groups and 31 individual religious leaders have endorsed the Statement in Support of Comprehensive Immigration Reform. The statement, which follows, remains open for endorsement.