Immigration is the Jewish Question of Today

May 12, 2014

by Sidney Hollander
JCUA Board Member

Sidney Hollander

Sidney Hollander

It was a week before the beginning of Pesach. I was marching from 101 West Congress to 1901 South Ashland along with about 150 other opponents of the Draconian deportations that are now terrorizing immigrant communities: 2 million deportations in the five years of the Obama administration. “Two million too many,” we chanted. “Not one more.” “Deportations’ got to go.”

Thoughts of throwing off the chains of oppression in Pharaoh’s Egypt come readily to mind, for immigration is a fundamentally Jewish question.

“Welcome the stranger,” God tells us, “for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Over the centuries we have all too often lived as unwelcome strangers, and, unwelcomed, have all too often had to leave in search of refuge that has not always been forthcoming, in a world that would not welcome Jews. The Nazi genocide, including the closed doors of the American state, is only the most recent, although probably the most horrific, instance.

This was the first leg of a larger and longer march that started at a place of bondage, the local headquarters of the federal deportation agency that has been preying upon immigrant communities with ever increasing cruelty over the past decade. ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is aptly named, for it does have a heart of ice, invoking memories of Pharaoh’s hardened heart that stood between the ancient Israelites and their freedom. Starting from the seat of oppression at 101 West Congress, this first leg was heading for a long-standing place of welcoming, safety and support, St. Pius V Catholic Church, at 19th Street and Ashland Avenue.

‘As a Jew, I find this very troubling.’

Read the rest of this entry »


Bring Immigration Justice Into Shavuot #Torah Study

May 7, 2014

Forty nine days after the holiday of Passover comes the holiday of Shavuot. If on Passover we are meant to recall and relive the experience of redemption from oppression, servitude and injustice then on Shavuot we are meant to recall how we catalyze that experience for real change and good. Passover is the life-altering moment and Shavuot is the day after. For centuries Jewish communities have utilized Shavuot as an opportunity for all night study and reflection. This tradition still continues and people all over the Chicagoland area will be participating in either formal programs or informal learning on the night of the holiday.

text study image

Download The Text Study

JCUA has prepared a unique text study guide that you can use to enhance your Shavuot learning and to bring the topic of immigration justice alive through the Jewish tradition.

Since 2008 more than two million individuals have been deported from the country. These people are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and loved ones. Families have been torn apart and people are crying out in pain and despair. This is an issue that directly impacts our city as families throughout Chicago have experienced the terror of detention and deportation.

We hope that this text study guide will be an educational resource to share broadly on how this issue is a deeply Jewish issue, rooted in the very foundational texts of the Jewish faith.

Please let us know how you used this study guide, we would love to hear your feedback!


From Immigration to Gun Violence: JCUA Stands with Families Torn Apart

April 29, 2014

In the past five years nearly two million individuals have been deported from the United States. Fathers and mothers taken from children. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins separated from their families. The trauma of loss and disconnection profoundly felt as people grapple with the disappearance of those closest to them.

Two million is too many!

We are standing together with our partners throughout the Chicagoland area and demanding the end to deportations. The voice of each individual experiencing detention and deportation can become silenced by the system that overwhelms them. However, when we all come together and demand change that collective voice cannot be silenced.

May 1st, JCUA is joining with our partners to march from Haymarket Square (175 N. Desplaines) to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (101 W. Congress Pkwy). Please join us beginning at 3 pm and declare that we will no longer accept as normal that families should be torn apart by a broken immigration system.

Later that evening continuing our focus on families torn apart we turn our attention to the horrible plague of gun violence. We will join together with our community partner, Fierce Women of Faith, for an important mother-son dialogue about the challenges of parenthood and the forces that would turn the young men in communities throughout Chicago to a life of violence and death. Please join us in the evening on May 1st from 6:30 – 8:30 pm at DuSable Museum. Tickets can be purchased in advance here.

128 years ago as people peacefully demonstrated for an eight hour workday in Haymarket Square that would enable parents to spend more time with their children a bomb was thrown and the lives of at least 11 people were ended. 125 years later through both the devastation and gun violence and an unjust immigration system millions of people have been ripped away from their families and lives have been destroyed. Join JCUA at either one or both of these events on May 1st as we stand together for families.

Details of the Events:

(1) “Two Million, Too Many” Immigration March

Haymarket Square (175 N. Desplaines) at 3 pm marching to the office of ICE (101 W. Congress Pkwy)

(2) “Question Bridge: Black Males – Mother to Son: A Frank Discussion and Letters of Love”

6:30 pm at the DuSable Museum of African American History. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased in advance on the museum website.


Tell Eric Cantor to Bring Comprehensive Immigration Reform to a Vote

March 24, 2014

eric-cantor-immigration-reformEveryday, 11 million people are denied access to basic freedoms in the U.S. It’s time to grant them access to America. So parents aren’t separated from their children. So bright students can go to college and realize their potential. So America doesn’t become a country with permanent second-class citizens.

Today the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs is joining forces with a coalition of Jewish organizations because we’ve got a real chance to open a pathway to citizenship for those 11 million people– a chance that may not come again for years.

On April 3, we’re delivering a united message to Majority Leader Eric Cantor, urging him to schedule a vote on comprehensive immigration reform. He has the power to do so tomorrow, and we can push him to act, but only if thousands of us speak up together.

Sign now and tell Majority Leader Cantor to finally bring comprehensive immigration reform to a vote in Congress:

► http://entrydenied.org/jcua

Eric Cantor has been clear about how crucial immigration has been for our families: If today’s laws had been in place in the past, many of our own families would have been denied access to the freedoms that have made our history in America possible. But so far he’s held firm against bringing comprehensive immigration reform to a vote.

A bill already passed the Senate last year, and despite its imperfections it is a huge step forward. In the House, there are enough bipartisan votes for the bill to pass, but politicians have been too afraid of the vocal — and extreme — fringes of their own party to take a stand.

Now we have a rare opportunity to break through the gridlock. In just a few days, Majority Leader Cantor is set to meet with Jewish constituents to hear why they support comprehensive immigration reform. Let’s send them in with the support of thousands of Jewish voices united with one message.

Join Bend the Arc, Ameinu, HIAS, JALSA, JCA, JCUA, NCJW, The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Uri L’Tzedek and Workmen’s Circle to send a powerful message:

It’s time to grant access to America for 11 million people.


Chicago Father in Deportation Granted 6 Month Stay of Removal

March 6, 2014

Because of his activism with Undocumented Illinois, the Immigrant Youth Justice League, Organized Communities Against Deportation, National Day Laborer Organizing Network and other immigrant justice organizations, Anibal Fuentes will remain in Chicago to see his son turn one. Anibal continues to fight for permanent relief and for President Obama to stop all deportations and will share his story at Chicago’s 5th National Coming Out of the Shadows Day. 

Screen-shot-2014-01-12-at-10.41.08-PMChicago, IL – Yesterday afternoon, Anibal Fuentes received the news that the Chicago immigration office granted him a 6 month stay of removal, until September 2014.

His first thought was about his son: “I am relieved. I get to celebrate my son’s first birthday.” But he said the temporary stay is bittersweet and leaves him in limbo. “But what happens after that? Will I see him grow up?” Anibal is also still under supervision and required to wear an ankle bracelet.

Anibal Eligio Fuentes-Aguilar  was placed in immigration detention after immigration officials raided his building on the in the north side of Chicago. He has a 6-month old baby, Franky, who is a US citizen. Anibal  has no criminal record, and was only placed into immigration custody due to his first encounter with border patrol over 5 years ago.

Meanwhile, Anibal will continue to organize alongside local groups. This Saturday, he will be one of the people sharing his story at Chicago’s 5th National Coming Out of the Shadows Day.

Along with other Chicago families facing deportation, Anibal will be calling attention to the mass number of deportations taking place under President Obama.

“I wonder if President Obama knows what it feels like to be separated from your family, taken to detention, and not know if you’ll see your children again. He can do something for our families and stop the raids and deportations,” Anibal said.


A JCUA Board Member Explains: Why I Decided To Break The Law

November 6, 2013

by Sidney Hollander
JCUA Board Member

On Wednesday, November 6, 2013 JCUA board members, staff, and lay leaders will participate in an act of civil disobedience, in protest of ongoing deportations that are tearing apart immigrant families and in a call to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform. 125 people will block streets surrounding the US Citizenship and Immigration Services Building in downtown Chicago, and thousands more will serve as witnesses. Sidney Hollander is a JCUA board member, past president of the board, and a member of JCUA’s Immigrant Justice Action Team.

Sidney Hollander

Sidney Hollander

I do not undertake civil disobedience lightly.  Law is a foundation of civilization, and is absolutely central to Judaism.  Jews are commanded to welcome the stranger.  The commandment is repeated more than thirty times, the most of any commandment in the Hebrew bible.

Unfortunately, for nearly four years the U.S. government has operated in flagrant disregard of that commandment, visiting a reign of terror on 11 million families who seek only to live peacefully and productively in their adopted country.

We are all dragged into this regime of discrimination and deportations.  We depend on immigrant labor but refuse to grant enough visas.  Worse, we then pretend that we bear no responsibility for the presence of undocumented workers among us.

I can no longer take refuge in the self-deception that blinds us to the terrible injustices perpetrated by our government.  We need fundamental reform of our immigration system.  Until it is enacted I will feel obligated to interfere with the “normal” life that is built on this hypocrisy and these injustices.

We can do better.  My small act of civil disobedience is a call to all of us to rediscover our humanity and welcome the stranger among us, as we are commanded.

—————

immigration group photo 1

In photo (left to right):
Maria Medina, Sidney Hollander,
Rebecca Katz, Peggy Slater.

Participants in the civil disobedience on behalf of JCUA include: Peggy Slater (JCUA Board President), Sidney Hollander (JCUA Board), Maria Medina (Chair of JCUA’s Immigrant Justice Action Team), and Rebecca Katz (JCUA’s Director of Teen Programs).

Other Jewish community leaders attending the rally include: Rabbi Fredrick Reeves (KAM Isiah Israel), Rabbi David Russo (Anshe Emet), Rabbi Brant Rosen (Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation), Kalman Resnick (immigration attorney and JCUA lay leader), and students from Chicagoland Jewish High School.


The Family Immigration Stories of Six Jewish U.S. Representatives (And Why One Of Them Got Arrested)

October 24, 2013

The U.S. Senate passed Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation in June 2013. Since then, this important legislation has been stuck in the House of Representatives. So we decided to highlight the immigration stories behind the members of the House.

Rep. Schakowsky arrested (10/8/13)

Rep. Schakowsky arrested (10/8/13)

As a member of the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, JCUA partnered with Jewish organizations around the country to compile the family immigration stories of six Jewish U.S. Representatives, including Illinois’ Jan Schakowsky (D-IL 9th District).

JCUA interviewed Rep. Schakowsky in summer 2013 for this project. She said:

My grandmother and grandfather were able to do just what they wanted which was to get a better life for themselves and their children. Those are the opportunities that I want for the immigrants today.

(Read the stories of six Jewish U.S. Representatives here)

On October 8, 2013 Rep. Schakowsky participated in an action of civil disobedience, to highlight the urgency of passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform. When reflecting on why she decided to get arrested that day, she wrote:

As someone who represents one of the most diverse districts in Illinois with a large immigrant populations representing countries in every corner of the globe, I have seen firsthand the consequences of our broken immigration system — families tragically separated, workers unfairly and dangerously exploited, young people denied opportunities to serve their country, and the stress of living with the constant fear of deportation. Immigration reform is for those thousands of people in my district and the millions of people across the country who want nothing more than to work hard, provide for their families, and reach for the American Dream.

But immigration reform is important not just for the 11 million people living in the shadows without documentation. It would significantly boost our overall economy. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, enactment of the bipartisan Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform bill would reduce the deficit by $850 billion, and would increase economic growth by an estimated 3.3 percent in 2023.

As I sat in the police station and looked around at all the people who were expressing their commitment to changing a hopelessly broken law through their civil disobedience, I was proud to join them. As a first generation American myself, I know that comprehensive immigration reform is good for our country. I know it will reduce our deficit, grow out economy, reaffirm our values, advance our ideals, and honor our history as a nation of immigrants. It’s time for a vote.


Hineni Video Urges Jews to Commit to Immigration Reform

September 12, 2013

As Jews around the world gather for Yom Kippur, they will hear the Hineni prayer. “Hineni” means “here I am.” We understand it to be the Jewish response to being called into action.

It’s also the theme of a new video supporting Comprehensive Immigration Reform just released by the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, of which JCUA is a partner. The Roundtable says:

“In this moment, every American of every background has an opportunity to stand up and say, ‘Hineni. Here I am.’”

Watch the video, then click a link to use your Facebook page or Twitter feed to pledge your ongoing support for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

Barack Obama Hineni Video

The “Hineni” video features a speech about immigration reform by President Barack Obama, illustrated by historical photos of Jews taking action to repair the world.


Women’s Equality Day Panel

August 26, 2013
August 26, 2013
By Ione Barrows, Community Organizing Intern
 
Chicago supporters of immigrant justice gathered on Monday to discuss the importance of immigration reform and its connection to women’s equality. The event was sponsored by Illinois Women for Compassionate Immigration Reform, a coalition of leaders in government, nonprofit, and business who are pushing for compassionate immigration reform that addresses the priorities of women.  The theme of the panel was “Women vote today, their children vote tomorrow.”
 
The five speakers represented a range of different fields, from politics to education and social services and JCUA’s Rabbi Ali Abrams added a faith-based voice to the conversation. Each woman gave a short speech articulating the importance of immigration reform for their own work.
Julie Hamos, Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services shared her immigration story and the bravery of her parents fleeing Hungary. She also spoke to the necessity of currently undocumented individuals and families having access to health care in this country.
Heather Steans, Illinois State Senator representing the 7th district, spoke about the importance of passing legislation that will enable immigrants to live, work and integrate into American society. Senator Steans’ district includes the most diverse zip code in the country, with 72 languages spoken at local high schools. She emphasized the power of personal stories, and encouraged voters to “uniquely reach out to” their legislators to remind them of why immigration reform matters to real individuals.
 
A Chicago woman named Maria and her son Rafael spoke about their experience as undocumented immigrants and the barriers they face. Several years ago, Rafael and his brother were arrested on a train and detained for three days. Thanks to the work of NIJC (National Immigrant Justice Center) and Senator Dick Durbin, Rafael’s deportation was deferred. Maria recalled that day as “the worst day of my life,” and expressed feelings of frustration and guilt about putting her sons in “a situation they did not choose.” 
 
Rose Mary Bombela-Tobias, Principal of Global Diversity Solutions Group and Illinois Director of LULAC, shared stories of women who worked hard to build a life for themselves in the U.S. only to get deported and “lose all their investments.” She praised the women who were “path blazers and rule breakers,” and urged us to recognize women as forces of change: “we need to make sure comprehensive immigration reform is fair to women in this country,” she said.women's equality day 2
 
Rabbi Ali Abrams spoke about the Jewish commitment to immigration reform, and why people of all faiths have an obligation to stand with their immigrant brothers and sisters. “This is what it means to be a person of faith – to do holy work,” she said. Rabbi Abrams discussed a commentary on Genesis that states:
God gathered the dust to create the first human from the four corners of the earth, so that if one comes from the east to the west…it will not be said to him, ‘This land is not the dust of your body, it’s of mine. Go back to where you were created.’ Rather, every place that a person walks, from there she was created and from there she will return (Yalkut Shimoni Genesis 1:13).
 
At the conclusion of the event, attendees signed letters to the Illinois Congressional Delegation urging them to push for immigration reform as both a women’s issue and an issue of human rights.

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