HIAS: Strive Act a Real Step Toward Achieving Sensible Immigration Reform

Posted on Tue, Apr 17, 2007 at 11:09 am

(Washington, D.C.)- Today, HIAS - the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society - praises and thanks Representatives Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) for their efforts to come up with a workable, sensible, and humane immigration reform plan that lives up to America's tradition as a welcoming nation.

The STRIVE Act of 2007, a bipartisan bill introduced by Representatives Flake and Gutierrez, combines the promise of legal status for people who have a record of contributing to the nation's economy and communities, smarter and more strategic federal immigration law enforcement, and a visa system that employers can use to hire new workers with labor rights while at the same time protecting the rights of native-born workers.

"The STRIVE Act offers a real path to citizenship that will bring people out of the shadows and enable workers that our economy desperately needs to come to this country in the future," says Lisa Shuger, director of HIAS' Washington office. "This proposal embodies many of the core principles HIAS believes are fundamental to effective, comprehensive immigration reform."

"We're especially pleased that the bill would hasten family reunification through the reduction of backlogs and includes protections for detained asylum seekers," said Gideon Aronoff, president and CEO of HIAS. The bill would enhance the family immigration system, and would implement many of the recommendations made two years ago by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in its report on asylum seekers in expedited removal. "For half a century, the principles of family unity and refugee protection have been the cornerstone of our immigration policy. This bill goes far in upholding these fundamental principles."

Adds Shuger, "In many respects, today's newcomers, whether economic migrants, refugees, or individuals seeking to be reunited with their families, face many of the same challenges that our parents, grandparents and great grandparents faced years ago. How we choose to respond to today's newcomers says a lot about who we are as individuals, as a community, and as a country."

HIAS/STRIVE Act, add one

"Recognizing that no bill is perfect, there are some provisions in the STRIVE Act that we would like to see improved" says Aronoff. "In particular, any "touchback" requirement, which would require undocumented immigrants to exit and re-enter the country, would have to be workable, efficient and humane for immigrants to be able to access the legalization program. We are also concerned that the bill does nothing to stem the erosion of due process, which began with the draconian immigration legislation passed in 1996. But the thrust of this bill is on target and HIAS will work to support it in the months ahead."

Recently, more than 30 prominent leaders in the American Jewish community sent a letter to congressional leaders urging passage of fair and workable immigration reform. Leaders of HIAS, the American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, Anti-Defamation League, B'nai B'rith International, Jewish Council for Public Affairs and United Jewish Communities, among others, spoke out about the need to reform our immigration system in a way that makes the United States stronger and safer. As the letter points out, it is through the teachings of our religious and ethical traditions and core American values that we should look for guidance on immigration reform. HIAS, the American Jewish community's international migration agency, will continue to advocate for final passage of a legislative package that includes an earned path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who fulfill reasonable criteria, effective and humane border enforcement, wider legal channels for immigrants to work in the U.S. with their rights fully protected, and enhancements to the family-based immigration system so that families are not unduly separated from their loved ones.