Sen. Jeff Merkley and Immigration Expert Phil Wolgin Discuss Family Separations at the Border


Please join us this Wednesday, July 11, at 5:30 ET for a conference call on immigration with Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Dr. Phil Wolgin, managing director of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress. To join the call, please RSVP here, and please send your questions in advance to [email protected]. The call will be off-the-record.


Last month, Senator Merkley was one of the first U.S. government officials to expose the separation and detention of families at the border. In early June, Sen. Merkley traveled to Texas and was denied entry to a detention facility for children held at the border. Two weeks later, Sen. Merkley returned to the border as part of a Father’s Day of Action, where he visited with migrants, including mothers separated from their children. As Sen. Merkley said at the time, “It is outrageous and cruel to intentionally inflict trauma on vulnerable children, including toddlers and some as young as 12 months, by separating them from their parents or family members and placing them in separate detention facilities.”



Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon (left) and immigration expert Phil Wolgin of the Center for American Progress (right)


JDCA agrees and has joined Sen. Merkley in condemning the Trump administration’s unconscionable and inhumane “zero-tolerace” policy of separating families at the border. We are honored to have such a clear, outspoken champion on these important issues join us on this call, which will also provide an opportunity to ask about the Supreme Court nomination pending before the Senate. 


In addition, we will be joined by Dr. Phil Wolgin, a renowned immigration expert who directs the Center for American Progress’ research and publications on immigration and has led initiatives on a diverse set of issues, such as immigration reform, child refugees at the southern border, and border security.


You can sign up for the call here, and please feel free to forward this information to others who may be interested. The only requirement for joining the call is an RSVP. If you would like to ask a question, please send it ahead of time to [email protected].


All the best,


Halie Soifer
Executive Director, Jewish Democratic Council of America

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. [Read more…]

H-CAN General Meeting

This summer, the general meeting of the Havertown-Area Community Action Network (H-CAN) will focus on immigration issues. The main speaker at the meeting will be Cathryn Miller-Wilson, executive director of HIAS. Miller-Wilson will discuss local, national and international immigration issues, as well as how current legislation is impacting immigrants and what we can do to help. If time permits, there will also be a brief training session for immigrants and activists. The meeting is open to the public.

For more information, contact Madeleine Shusterman.

Vigil for Detained Immigrant Jonatan Palacios Draws Crowd to Haverford Station

by Victoria Alfred-Levow

Last Thursday, at a vigil for detained immigrant Jonatan Palacios, speakers addressed a crowd of about 275 protesters at the Haverford Train Station.

Residents of Haverford and beyond applauded speakers at the vigil.

Residents of Haverford and beyond applauded speakers at the vigil.

“We stand united in the belief that these kinds of policies that led to Jonatan’s arrest rip apart the fabric of our community,” said Amanda Levinson, a leader of the Havertown-Area Community Action Network (H-CAN), which organized the vigil. [Read more…]

Vigil to Reunite Jonatan and Lillie

On the morning of May 11, Jonatan Palacios was arrested by ICE agents in front of his Haverford apartment. Originally from Honduras, one of the most violent and dangerous countries in the Western Hemisphere, Jonatan came to the U.S. as an unaccompanied minor when he was 16 years old. He is a valued member of the community, a loving husband, and a straight-A student at Delaware Community College who was ripped from his family and life months after he had begun the process of becoming a legal citizen in the United States.

Please join us to show solidarity, support, and prayer for Jonaton and his wife, Lillie, who was with him when he was taken away. This type of senseless targeting of innocent people is happening in communities like ours across the country. Help us send a message that it will not be tolerated in our community.

NOTE: Please meet at the Sharpe Park and Bird Sanctuary at 405 Montgomery Ave, Haverford, PA 19041; vigil will start at 5:15 across the street at the SEPTA Parking Lot on Cheswold Rd in Haverford.

Please wear blue, Jonaton’s favorite color, and bring signs with messages of support. All are welcome.

Come Hear the Remarkable Story of Lower Merion Senior, Liliana Velásquez

Refreshments at 6:30 pm, reading and discussion at 7:00 pm
Dreams and Nightmares / Sueños y Pesadillas is a memoir by teenager Liliana Velásquez, who at fourteen years old fled horrific violence and poverty in Guatemala and headed out alone for the United States. On her trip through Mexico she was robbed by narcos, rode the boxcars of La Bestia, and organized thirty of her fellow Central American bus passengers to convince the Federales who had arrested them to allow them to continue on their way. Finally, she made it to the US border, and headed out across the Sonoran Desert, where she encountered death and was caught by US Immigration. After four months in a detention center, she was placed in foster care while the courts decided whether to deport her. She spent a year in a horrendous foster situation and eventually landed on her feet with a family that loves and protects her. After having to recount her story of abuse several times, the judge determined it was too dangerous for her to return home and finally granted her a green card. She is now in high school, while she works to support her family back home and makes plans to go on to nursing school.

[Read more…]

There Is No Such Thing as Sanctuary

As of October 2015, sanctuary status was claimed by 326 counties, 32 cities and four states, according to Philippe Weisz, managing attorney of HIAS Pennsylvania. Despite these numbers, Weisz explained that there is actually no such legal entity as “sanctuary,” since the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operates freely. Weisz spoke during the inaugural session of HIAS Pennsylvania’s education series Welcoming the Stranger: Considering Immigration and Refugee Issues from a Jewish Perspective. The series provides background into American law and policy on these issues, as well as teachings on Jewish values. [Read more…]

Jews From Islamic Lands Speak on Muslim Immigration

The president’s travel ban for people from seven Muslim countries (now temporarily suspended by federal judges) has provoked outcries from the liberal community in the United States. Rallies and other acts of dissent have sprung up in most major cities. I last wrote about the response to the travel ban in the general Jewish community. I now seek to learn more from Jews who have lived in Muslim countries. [Read more…]

Anti-Trump Rallies

Protest Poster: "First they came for ..."

Protest Poster: “First they came for …”

Editor’s Note – Events are moving quickly. This initial story will be expanded on over time.

At Philadelphia International Airport and locations throughout the U.S., on Saturday and Sunday thousands of protestors demonstrated against President Trump’s ban on immigrants. There were frequent developments in Washington and the rest of the country as well.


Time Line, in Reverse Order


Tuesday, January 31st

Tuesday, 8 pm: Trump scheduled to announce his pick for the Supreme Court. This justice could be the crucial vote that decides the legality of Trump’s immigration ban.

Tuesday, Morning/Afternoon: Senate Democrats spoke at length about former Acting Attorney General Sally Yate’s courage in defying Trump. The Republican majority allowed them to speak, even though it delayed the vote to confirm Jeff Sessions as the new Attorney General. That vote is expected to take place on Wednesday, February 1.

Monday, January 30

Monday, Late evening: Yates is replaced by Dana Boente, who immediately reversed her directive. Meanwhile, Yates is still packing up her office after a 27 year career with the Justice Department.

Monday 9 pm: Attorney General Sally Yates has been fired for refusing to defend the ban. Earlier she had sent a letter to her staff explaining the she thought the ban was illegal and unjust. She wrote that the Justice Department would not defend the ban in court. [Read more…]

Faith Rally for Refugees and American Values

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.”

These are the words written on the base of the Statute of Liberty. These are the values that make America great. And today, these are the values that are threatened by Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigration from seven blacklisted countries. We must respond — and we will start today with a rally in Battery Park, New York, and a vigil at the Statue of Liberty.

Bring children; bring beautiful signs; bring musical instruments and snacks. The forecast is 45 ° and sunny, and this is a fantastic way to learn about American history and to take civic action.

This issue is not about Republicans or Democrats — it is about the soul of America. Trump’s executive action will not make Americans any safer. We all share real concerns about terrorism. That’s why our nation has rigorous screening procedures in place for all refugees. An American has never been killed in a terror attack on American soil by a person from one of the seven countries that were blacklisted today — and never by a Syrian refugee. Meanwhile, the countries from which the terrorists of 9/11 (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Lebanon) came from were excluded from the ban.

We must stand up against this un-American absurdity!

Schedule of Events
1:30 pm – Rally at Battery Park
3:00 pm – Vigil at the Statue of Liberty

For more information, email Rabbi Ari Hart, co-founder of Uri L’Tzedek: Orthodox Social Justice, or call him at 434-294-9414.