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Jewish Leaders on HIAS-ADL Trip Witness Border Crisis Up Close

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Aug 24, 2018

Blog Post

Sharon Samber and Bill Swersey, HIAS.org

Kate Clark, Supervising Immigration Attorney for Jewish Family Services of San Diego, briefs participants on the HIAS-ADL Jewish Leadership Border Mission about the legal issues facing migrants and asylum seekers, on the first morning of the trip.

Jennifer Liseo/ADL

Participants on the HIAS-ADL Jewish Leadership Border Mission arrive at the Mexican Consulate in San Diego.

Jennifer Liseo/ADL

Members of the HIAS-ADL mission meet with Consul General of Mexico in San Diego, Ambassador Marcela Celorio (C), at the Mexican Consulate.

Jennifer Liseo/ADL

Monica Bauer, ADL Director of Hispanic Affairs, delivers a training on hate crimes and incidents at the Mexican Consulate in San Diego for consular staff and community leaders.

Jennifer Liseo/ADL

Members of the HIAS-ADL Jewish Leadership Border Mission arrive at the Southwest Key shelter for unaccompanied minors in San Diego.

Bill Swersey/HIAS

The Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego.

Bill Swersey/HIAS

(L-R) Shayna Triebwasser, Righteous Persons Foundation; Cheryl Cook, Avodah; Alec Harris, Union of Reform Judaism; Nancy Kaufman, National Council of Jewish Women and Judy Mann, Jewish Funders Network leave the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego after observing Federal Immigration court proceedings and meeting with a lawyer who works with detained migrants and asylum seekers.

Bill Swersey/HIAS

HIAS General Counsel Liz Sweet (R) speaks with (L-R) Judy Mann of the Jewish Funders Network; Cheryl Cook, Avodah; Robert Bank, AJWS; Nancy Kaufman, National Council of Jewish Women and Jess Smith, J Street, after a visit to the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego.

Bill Swersey/HIAS

Melanie Gorelick (R), Senior Vice President of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, during a group discussion with members of the HIAS-ADL Jewish Leadership Border Mission in San Diego.

Jennifer Liseo/ADL

Rabbi Deborah Waxman, President of Reconstructing Judaism, sets the Jewish spiritual context for the HIAS-ADL delegation's visit to Tijuana, during the bus ride from San Diego.

Jennifer Liseo/ADL

Participants on the HIAS-ADL Border Mission pose for a group photo on the Mexican side of the border before visiting migrant shelters in Tijuana.

Jennifer Liseo/ADL

Members of the HIAS-ADL Border Mission arrive at the Instituto Madre Asunta women and children's shelter in Tijuana, Mexico.

Jennifer Liseo/ADL

Sister Adelia Contini, director of the Instituto Madre Asunta women and children's shelter in Tijuana, Mexico, discusses her work with members of the HIAS-ADL delegation.

Jennifer Liseo/ADL

A young girl offers a cookie to Jonathan Greenblatt (C), CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, during a visit to the Instituto Madre Asunta women and children's shelter in Tijuana, Mexico, as the shelter's director Sister Adelia Contini (L) looks on.

Jennifer Liseo/ADL

The courtyard of the Instituto Madre Asunta women and children's shelter in Tijuana, Mexico.

Bill Swersey/HIAS

Nancy Kaufman (R), CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women accepts a cookie from a young girl during a visit to the Instituto Madre Asunta women and children's shelter in Tijuana, Mexico.

Jennifer Liseo/ADL

Father Pat Murphy, Director of the Centro Scalabrini Casa del Migrante in Tijuana, Mexico, discusses his organization's work with migrants.

Jennifer Liseo/ADL

Two migrant men, deported from the US within the previous 24 hours, share their story with the group at the Centro Scalabrini Casa del Migrante in Tijuana, Mexico.

Jennifer Liseo/ADL

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt (L) and HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield walk toward the San Ysidro Port of Entry at the U.S.-Mexico border after visiting shelters for migrants in Tijuana.

Jennifer Liseo/ADL

Participants on the HIAS-ADL Jewish Leadership Border Mission return to the United States at the San Ysidro Port of Entry after visiting migrant shelters in Tijuana, Mexico.

Jennifer Liseo/ADL

Jennifer Liseo/ADL

Sometimes you have to see things for yourself.

That is just what 27 leaders from 17 national Jewish organizations did this week as part of a delegation led by HIAS and the Anti-Defamation League to view firsthand the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

On Tuesday Jewish leaders from across the nation convened in San Diego, CA and set out for a series of meetings and visits on the U.S. side of the border. The group met with immigration attorneys and humanitarian workers who work with migrants and asylum seekers. Observing Federal immigration hearings inside a huge high-security detention center, they saw how some struggle to comprehend a complex system, often without legal representation. Others visited a shelter for unaccompanied minors and gained a deeper understanding of how U.S. policies impact real people.

“It’s heartbreaking to see the way the United States is treating immigrants” said Mark Hetfield, HIAS’ President and CEO. “The system does nothing to ensure due process, it’s not treating them like human beings,” he added.

On Wednesday the group crossed the Mexican border and visited two facilities in Tijuana. At the crowded Instituto Madre Asunta shelter, the delegation heard how many women fleeing gang violence in Central America end up in limbo with few options. At a men’s shelter nearby they spoke with a pair of migrants who had been deported from the U.S. overnight — men members of the delegation had seen just the day before in an “Operation Streamline” criminal court hearing.

“Being there rehumanized the border crisis for us,” said Mark Hetfield, HIAS’ President and CEO. “We sat with people, heard their stories, it was difficult for everyone, even those of us just listening.”

After returning to the U.S. Wednesday afternoon, delegation members pledged to work together to educate their constituents, advocate for refugees and asylum seekers, and to call on elected officials to do more to protect them.  

“Our Jewish tradition teaches us the importance of bearing witness, the importance of being present, of observing,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League. “Now we have to be accountable for what we saw and to share that not only with our constituents inside our respective organizations, but with the broader community.”

Hetfield said he was hopeful because there is so much interest on the part of the American Jewish community, but noted the need for depoliticization of the issue as well as real systemic change.

“We have a lot of work to do,” he said.

The delegation included leaders and representatives of the following national Jewish organizations:

  • American Jewish World Service

  • Anti-Defamation League

  • Avodah

  • HIAS

  • Jewish Family Service of San Diego

  • Jewish Council for Public Affairs

  • Jewish Funders Network

  • J Street

  • National Council of Jewish Women

  • Rabbinical Assembly

  • Reconstructing Judaism

  • Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association

  • Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

  • Repair the World

  • Righteous Persons Foundation

  • United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

  • Union for Reform Judaism