Broken System, Broken Lives: The Importance of Immigration Reform

On Friday, July 29, 2011 leaders from JCUA joined some 160 other representatives of organizations that are part of the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable at the White House for a policy briefing to exchange ideas on housing, healthcare, food justice and education. Below is a story Ira Azulay, chair of JCUA’s Immigrant Justice Action Team, will share on the importance of repairing our country’s broken immigration system.

In 2008, Adam Savitt, an immigrant from Guatemala, was sitting on the front porch of his home in Highland Park on a Monday morning, when eight federal immigration agents showed up. Within minutes, they had taken him into custody and handed his belt, keys and wallet to his wife of seven years, Julie Savitt. They did not show her a warrant and did not tell anyone why he was being detained.

Adam was taken to an immigration detention facility. It took his wife four days to find where he was. Though Julie gave the immigration agents his diabetes and depression medication, it took several days and the intervention of immigrants rights organizations, lawyers and his rabbi for him to receive them. Eventually, Adam was deported to Guatemala.

The Savitts were going through the proper legal channels for Adam to become a legal permanent resident. They had asked their Congressman for assistance with their case as early as 2005. Senator Kirk’s office never responded before Adam’s detention, and since the arrest, his staff has only responded to say there’s nothing they can do.

The Savitts own and operate a hauling company together. Adam has helped raise Julie’s three children and is also supporting his two other children. Today, however, it doesn’t matter that Adam Savitt is married to a U.S. citizen, a successful businessman, an active member of his synagogue, a resident of Highland Park, a refugee who fled Guatemala during its bloody civil war, or an applicant for a marriage visa that would allow him to live with his family in the United States. What matters is that Adam was one of some 300,000 undocumented individuals unceremoniously plucked from the lives they had built in this country and returned to places where they no longer had ties – or, worse, to the same dangers they had risked their lives to escape.

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