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:


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.

Women’s Equality Day

August 19, 2013

August 19, 2013

Women vote today, their children vote tomorrow.women for cir

Join the Illinois Women for Compassionate Immigration Reform as we celebrate women’s suffrage and National Women’s Equality Day.

Women from backgrounds in politics, education, religion, and social services come together to speak about the voting power of women and immigrants and the importance of passing an immigration reform bill this year that supports women and their families.

Rabbi Ali Abrams, JCUA’s Director of Organizing, will be speaking.

Date: Monday, August 26th

Time: 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.

Downtown. Location to be announced. 


CIR Campaign Update: House Republicans Warming Up to Immigration Reform

July 31, 2013

July 31, 2013citizenship yes

By Ione Barrows, Community Organizing Intern

The Republicans in the House of Representatives are receiving pressure from constituents and donors to pass immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship. The month of August will be important for urging Republican legislators to take action.

Last week, Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) drew criticism from both sides of the aisle after his hateful comment about the children of undocumented immigrants. Bigotry is never welcome news, especially coming from our political leadership. But this incident has a silver lining: King’s remark highlights an increasing distance between rank-and-file Republicans and anti-immigration extremists. The latter continue to bluster, but it has become clear their position is far from ubiquitous in Congress. Speaker John Boehner denounced King’s remark: “What he said does not reflect the values of the American people of the Republican Party,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

At the beginning of June, when Illinois Representative Peter Roskam joked that passing CIR in the House was “a pipe dream,” the Republican party seemed unified in their resolve to block immigration reform. But lately more conservatives are understanding the vast economic benefits of an immigration system overhaul. For example, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) has just come out in support of immigration reform. In an interview with the National Journal, Ryan made the case for immigration reform for economic reasons: “We want to go toward an immigration system where we’re bringing people into the country to contribute and to pay taxes, start businesses, and work. That is good for economic growth…Most Republicans agree that legal immigration…is good for the economy and good for the country.” This is an unexpected show of support coming from a Congressman who has historically been more focused on national debt than issues like immigration reform.

Further, on Tuesday, a group of  major GOP donors wrote a letter to House Republicans urging them to support an overhaul to the immigration system. The letter explicitly supports a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are living in this country already.

The letter signals a shift in the mainstream Republican stance on immigration reform – and it encourages lawmakers to get on board. One of the signers, Frank VanderSloot, said “I think most Republicans are on board with a path…They’re O.K. with [undocumented immigrants] having a path to citizenship, but not having an advantage over those who have been waiting in line for a long time legally.”

Slowly but surely, Republican Congressmen are summoning up the courage to defy their party’s traditional anti-immigration stance. Conservatives are beginning to publically recognize that the current immigration system is broken, and that we are in desperate need of reform. CIR can provide a much-needed jump start to our economy, keep families together, and even mend the Republican Party’s reputation among Latino voters.

Whether their stated motivation is economic or ethical, our representatives must work towards CIR this summer – and it’s our job to hold them accountable.

Want to get involved? Contact Rabbi Ali Abrams, JCUA’s Director of Organizing.

Home/Land at the Goodman Theatre

July 18, 2013

July 18, 2013Image

Albany Park Theatre Project’s Play Discusses Immigrant Justice, beginning July 18

For two weeks only, the Goodman Theatre will be hosting the Albany Park Theatre Project’s play, Home/Land.  The production runs from July 18 to July 28.

Home/Land tells the real-life stories of undocumented immigrants and grassroots immigrant rights activists in Chicago, created and performed by an ensemble of 25 Chicago youth, many of whom are themselves undocumented.  This is especially exciting for us at JCUA, who not only encourage teen leadership and empowerment, but have also been focusing on immigrant justice and immigration reform for years.

Tickets for Home/Land, which received great reviews from critics, including those at the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Reader, are on sale now. Tickets range from $5 to $20 when using the APTP promotional code. In addition, all performances are presented with Spanish supertitles.

A 2-minute teaser of the immigrant justice play can be found here.

Tickets can be purchased online, at, or by phone, at 312.443.3800.

Click here to learn more about Albany Park Theatre Project.

A Personal Reflection on Immigration Reform

July 12, 2013

July 12, 2013

By Beth Filipiak, Community Organizing Intern


This past weekend, as our nation watched fireworks, barbequed and spent time with family and friends, hopefully we took time out as well to contemplate what it means to “Be an American”.  As I reflect on what being an American means to me, particularly as a person who is determined to live a life dedicated to human rights and justice, I find my work as an intern at JCUA quite illuminating. 

JCUA is part of a local and national effort to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform.  Part of my internship has included the chance to ‘stand up’ with people fighting for an America where they are recognized as they have seen and been conducting themselves for years: as Americans.  They desire the opportunity to be free from fear of raids and deportations and being torn from family and communities where they have worked and lived for years- maybe their entire life.  I have rallied, protested and signed petitions to encourage our elected officials to acknowledge the personhood and human dignity of each individual already here  and to enact Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

I believe that by accident of birth, I was born into a freedom of privilege that is not of my doing.  However, it is what I do with that privilege that defines me.  To be proud to be an American means that I will work toward an America that respects people fully and provides a true, practical and possible avenue toward citizenship for those who are here already – still allowing others who have been waiting outside the country the same chance to pursue citizenship themselves.  As someone who believes strongly in the potential of people, I have to also believe in the potential of my country and our elected officials to do what is right.  To look forward, we have to acknowledge the truth:  our country has been and IS STILL being built by immigrants.  We are a country full of opportunity and promise, and I believe that as a country, we need to make those promises and opportunities more available to all. 


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