A Jewish Response to the Plight of the Dreamers

Photo: Bend the Arc Facebook.

Koach Frazier is arrested as Stosh Cotler and Rabbi Jonah Pesner continue to sing. Photo: Bend the Arc Facebook.

“Why would you do this for us?” This question was posed after a group of over 80 rabbis and Jewish leaders were arrested during a protest at the Capitol, led by the Jewish organization Bend the Arc, on behalf of the Dreamers.

Dreamers are undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. In 2012, by executive order, President Obama established the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, to provide the Dreamers with temporary legal protection. Since its inception, DACA has enabled almost 800,000 Dreamers, who met certain criteria, to legally live, work and attend school in the U.S. However, by order of President Trump, DACA protections are to be terminated, leaving hundreds of thousands of Dreamers in jeopardy.

DACA is now at the center of a government shutdown, with Republican senators refusing to move on DACA until the government is funded, and Democratic senators refusing to fund the government until DACA is addressed. The planned termination of DACA is also under judicial review: a federal District Court ruled against the termination, and the Trump administration has appealed the ruling.

On January 17, just days before the government shutdown began, the protest led by Bend the Arc brought over a hundred Jews from across the country to the Capitol, along with Dreamers. The Jewish protesters sang Jewish songs and expressed their support for the the Dreamers’ fight to stay in the only country that many of them have ever known. As a twist on the iconic Passover refrain, the protesters chanted, “Let my people stay.”

In a statement on Facebook, Stosh Cotler, CEO of Bend the Arc, answered the Dreamers’ question, “Why would you do this for us?” in part by saying:

No one should ever feel as alone and terrified as Dreamers do under Trump.

We believe that our struggles for justice are inextricably linked. The only way to achieve our vision of equity and liberation for all is for each of us to use our moral compass and take action whenever anyone is mistreated or experiencing cruelty and harm.

Commenting on the protest on behalf of the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA), JDCA chair Ron Klein said, “Jewish Americans, as the descendants of immigrants, understand more than most the moral weight of this issue.”

In organizing the protest, Bend the Arc partnered with the following groups and organizations: United We Dream, CASA, the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC), Carolina Jews for Justice, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, Credo, HIAS, JCA, the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA), the Jewish Labor Committee, the Jewish Multiracial Network, Jews for Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ), Jews United for Justice (JUFJ), the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, T’ruah, Uri L’Tzedek (Orthodox Social Justice), and the Union of Reform Judaism (URJ).

The protest received substantial media coverage and was streamed live on Facebook before an audience of over a million people.

Editor’s note: After the publication of this article, the Senate agreed to a compromise and passed a bill, ultimately leading to the end of the government shutdown.

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