By Jane Ramsey
Executive Director, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs
Sitting in the audience at American University as a Jew and as leader of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, which has been active in the Jewish campaign for immigration reform, I was deeply moved by the president’s reference to the Jewish immigration experience.Obama credited Emma Lazarus, the Jewish woman who authored the poem engraved on the Statue of Liberty, with articulating America’s role for immigrants as “a place of opportunity and refuge and freedom.”
The president’s remarks (see the video and the transcript) demonstrate the important role played by Jews, and all immigrant communities, in the fabric of our country.
In Judaism’s Holy Scriptures, the Torah, the most frequently repeated commandment is “Do not oppress the stranger.” Our ancestors were once strangers in a strange land who fought injustice. The empathy of the American character has gotten us to where we are today.
President Obama this morning gave strong endorsement to the critical bi-partisan support needed right now to make Comprehensive Immigration Reform a national reality.
We have yet again reached a crossroads in our nation’s history and the time for action is now.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform is no longer a political idea that has been shuffled around the halls of Congress but a necessity for our ever growing and evolving nation. The president, members of Congress and law enforcement officials across the country have all recognized the immense flaws in our current system and are calling for reform. It is for this reason that we continue to support President Obama’s pledge to usher in immigration legislation by the end of this year.
Furthermore, if members of Congress continue to be an obstacle to immigration reform legislation we urge President Obama to issue an executive order to stop the senseless destruction of families.
A national approach will prevent inhumane laws like Arizona’s SB1070 from spreading in various forms to various parts of the country.
This issue has reached a point that transcends politics and economics. The issue of immigration is now a moral imperative and a human rights issue that must be dealt with in a swift manner if we are to continue to believe that the United States is the world’s leader. This issue is far too important for this Congress to yet again let it fall by the wayside.
As President Obama made clear this morning, members of Congress from both parties must work toward Comprehensive Immigration Reform to create an effective law for our nation.
We have an opportunity to make this new land for our nation’s immigrants less unfamiliar and make their path easier to travel and we must seize the opportunity. We do not want to wonder 20 years from now what could have been or how many families could have been saved only if we had the courage to act.
JCUA, Executive Director
(For background information, perspective and activities, see JCUA’s Immigration Reform Guide.)