Welcoming The Stranger

The Jewish Social Policy Action Network (JSPAN) has issued its 4th Haggadah Supplement entitled Welcoming the Stranger to the Land. According to JSPAN Vice-President and Philadelphia Jewish Voice board member Kenneth Meyers:

We were immigrants in Egypt.  And we have been immigrants many times since then, until we achieved citizenship on American soil. The Seder is a time to reflect on our experience and the plight of others who have not yet achieved their freedoms here.  Millions of undocumented immigrants have no path to citizenship or the full freedoms we take for granted.  Consider what their status forever does to their lives, and how we can help them and America fulfill our common aspirations.

Links to JSPAN’s previous issue oriented Haggadah supplements follow the jump.
Each year, the Jewish Social Policy Action Network develops issue oriented material each year you can use to enrich your seder. Supplements to the traditional Haggadah relate the biblical story of the Exodus to current events and issues.

  • The 2012 Freedom Supplement, comprised of 16 pages with illustrations, is now available without charge. The Freedom Seder Supplement celebrates emerging freedom movements around the world with poems, texts and prayers. Editors Stephen C. Sussman Esq. and Kenneth R. Myers Esq. have drawn from far-ranging sources, from Lord Byron to Tibet. Each of the readings includes suggestions keying it into the traditional Seder service.
  • In 2010 JSPAN released its first Supplement, entitled We were strangers, on the theme of immigration in history and in the United States.
  • In 2011 the JSPAN Supplement, This is the bread of poverty, brought the focus to hunger here and around the world. The 2012 “Freedom Seder” takes up the human longing for freedom that is spreading around the globe, and concludes with four resolutions that we as American Jews can meaningfully adopt.

Napolitano Discusses Immigration, Sequestration at JCPA Plenum

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano delivered remarks yesterday at the Jewish Council for Public Affairs Plenum to discuss the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) priorities, including reforming our nation’s immigration laws, DHS’ continuing engagement with the Jewish community, as well as the challenges posed by the ongoing sequestration.

“I’m very proud of the work we’ve done together with the Jewish community to strengthen and deepen our collaboration on many issues of mutual interest and concern,” said Secretary Napolitano. Noting America’s history as a nation of immigrants, She said we need to fix a “system that does not work the way it was intended to.”

More after the jump.
Napolitano highlighted the critical need for commonsense immigration reform and the Administration’s dedication of historic levels of personnel, technology, and resources to the Southwest border. In January, President Obama announced key principles for commonsense immigration reform that would continue to build upon this progress by investing in the ports of entry, and helping our officers and agents focus on public safety threats; making it harder for transnational criminal organizations to operate, while encouraging immigrants to pursue a pathway to earned citizenship; holding employers accountable and strengthening the integrity of the immigration system overall. The passage of the President’s proposal will help make sure that officers and agents along the border are better able to focus on combating public safety and national security threats.  

During her remarks, Napolitano also discussed DHS’ ongoing collaboration with the Jewish community to provide the information, tools, resources, and capabilities needed to build stronger, more resilient communities. To that end, in 2011 Napolitano announced the expansion of the “If You See Something, Say Something™” public awareness campaign the Jewish community by partnering with the JFNA and the Secure Community Network — a mechanism for information sharing with faith — and community-based organizations designed to improve security awareness in a crisis situation.

“We appreciate the Obama administration’s seriousness about improving our nation’s immigration system,” said JCPA Chair Larry Gold.

Both from our community’s own immigrant experience and our religious obligation to welcome the stranger, the Jewish community is deeply invested in seeing a fair immigration system that balances security with the need to encourage and welcome immigrants. We were pleased to be able to sit down with Secretary Napolitano and discuss our shared priorities.

Napolitano traveled to Israel last year, where she met with senior Israeli officials and signed a Joint Statement on the implementation of the Global Entry trusted traveler program, which provides expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States.  

Bipartisan Immigration Action Signals Hope for Millions

— by Benjamin Suarato

Just one day after a group of Senators released a landmark bipartisan plan, President Obama announced his intention to work with Congress on comprehensive immigration overhaul. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs welcomed both proposals and expressed a desire to work with the President and Congress to ensure passage of a comprehensive bill that will offer hope, security, and opportunity to millions of immigrants.

“This is welcome and exciting news for all Americans,” said JCPA Chair Larry Gold.

Transcript and more commentary after the jump.

That these Senators were able to come together on a bipartisan basis to offer a proposal signals a seriousness of intent that may finally allow our nation to update and reform our immigration system. Undocumented workers will be able to leave the shadows and begin the path towards citizenship, and aspiring Americans will have new opportunities to immigrate the United States. The Senate’s plan embodies the best of our national aspirations — freedom, equality, justice, and oppertunity — and offers a comprehensive and consensus set of policy proposals. The President issued a similar call today, and we are eager to work with both Republicans and Democrats, both Congress and the President, to finally see immigration reform passed. Not only will these proposals strengthen our country, but the bipartisan cooperation behind them could mean the start of a new era.

The Senate plan, introduced by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), John McCain (R-AZ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Michael Bennett (D-CO), and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) would create a path for citizenship for those currently in the country (pending a border security deal), reform the process for legal immigration, implement an employment verification system, and establish an improved process for admitting future workers.

We are told in the Torah to be kind to the stranger among us because we were once strangers in Egypt; but we do not need to go back that far. We are a nation of immigrants and many in the Jewish community — and every community — are just a generation or two removed from immigrant roots. We understand from our own experiences what can be done to welcome the stranger and reduce the uncertainties and isolation of the immigrant experience. This must include the reunification of families, said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. Just as America benefitted from an influx of talent and passion before, the plans being discussed would open doors for new generations of immigrants to leave their mark on our country. Details, of course, remain to be worked out, but the thrust is clear. At the end of the day, and with bipartisan cooperation, the millions who came here to work and raise families with access to opportunity will finally gain the security to continue to live their lives as productive members of society without fear of arrest as they work towards citizenship.

The full Obama speech transcript:

Last week, I had the honor of being sworn in for a second term as President of the United States. And during my inaugural address, I talked about how making progress on the defining challenges of our time doesn’t require us to settle every debate or ignore every difference that we may have, but it does require us to find common ground and move forward in common purpose. It requires us to act.  

I know that some issues will be harder to lift than others. Some debates will be more contentious. That’s to be expected. But the reason I came here today is because of a challenge where the differences are dwindling; where a broad consensus is emerging; and where a call for action can now be heard coming from all across America. I’m here today because the time has come for common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform. The time is now. Now is the time. Now is the time. Now is the time.

I’m here because most Americans agree that it’s time to fix a system that’s been broken for way too long. I’m here because business leaders, faith leaders, labor leaders, law enforcement, and leaders from both parties are coming together to say now is the time to find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as the land of opportunity.  Now is the time to do this so we can strengthen our economy and strengthen our country’s future.

Think about it —  we define ourselves as a nation of immigrants. That’s who we are — in our bones. The promise we see in those who come here from every corner of the globe, that’s always been one of our greatest strengths. It keeps our workforce young. It keeps our country on the cutting edge. And it’s helped build the greatest economic engine the world has ever known.

After all, immigrants helped start businesses like Google and Yahoo!. They created entire new industries that, in turn, created new jobs and new prosperity for our citizens. In recent years, one in four high-tech startups in America were founded by immigrants. One in four new small business owners were immigrants, including right here in Nevada — folks who came here seeking opportunity and now want to share that opportunity with other Americans.

But we all know that today, we have an immigration system that’s out of date and badly broken; a system that’s holding us back instead of helping us grow our economy and strengthen our middle class.  

Right now, we have 11 million undocumented immigrants in America; 11 million men and women from all over the world who live their lives in the shadows. Yes, they broke the rules. They crossed the border illegally. Maybe they overstayed their visas. Those are facts. Nobody disputes them. But these 11 million men and women are now here. Many of them have been here for years. And the overwhelming majority of these individuals aren’t looking for any trouble. They’re contributing members of the community.  They’re looking out for their families. They’re looking out for their neighbors. They’re woven into the fabric of our lives.  

Every day, like the rest of us, they go out and try to earn a living. Often they do that in a shadow economy — a place where employers may offer them less than the minimum wage or make them work overtime without extra pay. And when that happens, it’s not just bad for them, it’s bad for the entire economy. Because all the businesses that are trying to do the right thing — that are hiring people legally, paying a decent wage, following the rules — they’re the ones who suffer. They’ve got to compete against companies that are breaking the rules.  And the wages and working conditions of American workers are threatened, too.

So if we’re truly committed to strengthening our middle class and providing more ladders of opportunity to those who are willing to work hard to make it into the middle class, we’ve got to fix the system.

We have to make sure that every business and every worker in America is playing by the same set of rules. We have to bring this shadow economy into the light so that everybody is held accountable — businesses for who they hire, and immigrants for getting on the right side of the law. That’s common sense. And that’s why we need comprehensive immigration reform.    

There’s another economic reason why we need reform. It’s not just about the folks who come here illegally and have the effect they have on our economy. It’s also about the folks who try to come here legally but have a hard time doing so, and the effect that has on our economy.

Right now, there are brilliant students from all over the world sitting in classrooms at our top universities. They’re earning degrees in the fields of the future, like engineering and computer science. But once they finish school, once they earn that diploma, there’s a good chance they’ll have to leave our country. Think about that.

Intel was started with the help of an immigrant who studied here and then stayed here. Instagram was started with the help of an immigrant who studied here and then stayed here. Right now in one of those classrooms, there’s a student wrestling with how to turn their big idea — their Intel or Instagram — into a big business. We’re giving them all the skills they need to figure that out, but then we’re going to turn around and tell them to start that business and create those jobs in China or India or Mexico or someplace else? That’s not how you grow new industries in America. That’s how you give new industries to our competitors. That’s why we need comprehensive immigration reform.

Now, during my first term, we took steps to try and patch up some of the worst cracks in the system.

First, we strengthened security at the borders so that we could finally stem the tide of illegal immigrants. We put more boots on the ground on the southern border than at any time in our history. And today, illegal crossings are down nearly 80 percent from their peak in 2000.

Second, we focused our enforcement efforts on criminals who are here illegally and who endanger our communities. And today, deportations of criminals is at its highest level ever.

And third, we took up the cause of the DREAMers — the young people who were brought to this country as children, young people who have grown up here, built their lives here, have futures here. We said that if you’re able to meet some basic criteria like pursuing an education, then we’ll consider offering you the chance to come out of the shadows so that you can live here and work here legally, so that you can finally have the dignity of knowing you belong.

But because this change isn’t permanent, we need Congress to act — and not just on the DREAM Act. We need Congress to act on a comprehensive approach that finally deals with the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are in the country right now. That’s what we need.

Now, the good news is that for the first time in many years, Republicans and Democrats seem ready to tackle this problem together. Members of both parties, in both chambers, are actively working on a solution. Yesterday, a bipartisan group of senators announced their principles for comprehensive immigration reform, which are very much in line with the principles I’ve proposed and campaigned on for the last few years. So at this moment, it looks like there’s a genuine desire to get this done soon, and that’s very encouraging.

But this time, action must follow. We can’t allow immigration reform to get bogged down in an endless debate. We’ve been debating this a very long time. So it’s not as if we don’t know technically what needs to get done. As a consequence, to help move this process along, today I’m laying out my ideas for immigration reform. And my hope is that this provides some key markers to members of Congress as they craft a bill, because the ideas I’m proposing have traditionally been supported by both Democrats like Ted Kennedy and Republicans like President George W. Bush. You don’t get that matchup very often. So we know where the consensus should be.

Now, of course, there will be rigorous debate about many of the details, and every stakeholder should engage in real give and take in the process. But it’s important for us to recognize that the foundation for bipartisan action is already in place. And if Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away.

So the principles are pretty straightforward.  There are a lot of details behind it. We’re going to hand out a bunch of paper so that everybody will know exactly what we’re talking about. But the principles are pretty straightforward.

First, I believe we need to stay focused on enforcement. That means continuing to strengthen security at our borders. It means cracking down more forcefully on businesses that knowingly hire undocumented workers. To be fair, most businesses want to do the right thing, but a lot of them have a hard time figuring out who’s here legally, who’s not. So we need to implement a national system that allows businesses to quickly and accurately verify someone’s employment status.  And if they still knowingly hire undocumented workers, then we need to ramp up the penalties.

Second, we have to deal with the 11 million individuals who are here illegally. We all agree that these men and women should have to earn their way to citizenship. But for comprehensive immigration reform to work, it must be clear from the outset that there is a pathway to citizenship.

We’ve got to lay out a path — a process that includes passing a background check, paying taxes, paying a penalty, learning English, and then going to the back of the line, behind all the folks who are trying to come here legally. That’s only fair, right?

So that means it won’t be a quick process but it will be a fair process. And it will lift these individuals out of the shadows and give them a chance to earn their way to a green card and eventually to citizenship.

And the third principle is we’ve got to bring our legal immigration system into the 21st century because it no longer reflects the realities of our time. For example, if you are a citizen, you shouldn’t have to wait years before your family is able to join you in America. You shouldn’t have to wait years.

If you’re a foreign student who wants to pursue a career in science or technology, or a foreign entrepreneur who wants to start a business with the backing of American investors, we should help you do that here. Because if you succeed, you’ll create American businesses and American jobs. You’ll help us grow our economy. You’ll help us strengthen our middle class.

So that’s what comprehensive immigration reform looks like: smarter enforcement; a pathway to earned citizenship; improvements in the legal immigration system so that we continue to be a magnet for the best and the brightest all around the world. It’s pretty straightforward.  

The question now is simple: Do we have the resolve as a people, as a country, as a government to finally put this issue behind us? I believe that we do. I believe that we do. I believe we are finally at a moment where comprehensive immigration reform is within our grasp.

But I promise you this: The closer we get, the more emotional this debate is going to become. Immigration has always been an issue that enflames passions. That’s not surprising. There are few things that are more important to us as a society than who gets to come here and call our country home; who gets the privilege of becoming a citizen of the United States of America.  That’s a big deal.

When we talk about that in the abstract, it’s easy sometimes for the discussion to take on a feeling of “us” versus “them.” And when that happens, a lot of folks forget that most of “us” used to be “them.” We forget that.

It’s really important for us to remember our history. Unless you’re one of the first Americans, a Native American, you came from someplace else. Somebody brought you.

Ken Salazar, he’s of Mexican American descent, but he points that his family has been living where he lives for 400 years, so he didn’t immigrate anywhere.

The Irish who left behind a land of famine. The Germans who fled persecution. The Scandinavians who arrived eager to pioneer out west. The Polish. The Russians. The Italians. The Chinese.  The Japanese. The West Indians. The huddled masses who came through Ellis Island on one coast and Angel Island on the other. All those folks, before they were “us,” they were “them.”

And when each new wave of immigrants arrived, they faced resistance from those who were already here. They faced hardship. They faced racism. They faced ridicule. But over time, as they went about their daily lives, as they earned a living, as they raised a family, as they built a community, as their kids went to school here, they did their part to build a nation.

They were the Einsteins and the Carnegies. But they were also the millions of women and men whose names history may not remember, but whose actions helped make us who we are; who built this country hand by hand, brick by brick. They all came here knowing that what makes somebody an American is not just blood or birth, but allegiance to our founding principles and the faith in the idea that anyone from anywhere can write the next great chapter of our story.

And that’s still true today. Just ask Alan Aleman. Alan is here this afternoon — where is Alan? He’s around here — there he is right here. Alan was born in Mexico. He was brought to this country by his parents when he was a child. Growing up, Alan went to an American school, pledged allegiance to the American flag, felt American in every way — and he was, except for one: on paper.  

In high school, Alan watched his friends come of age — driving around town with their new licenses, earning some extra cash from their summer jobs at the mall. He knew he couldn’t do those things. But it didn’t matter that much. What mattered to Alan was earning an education so that he could live up to his God-given potential.

Last year, when Alan heard the news that we were going to offer a chance for folks like him to emerge from the shadows — even if it’s just for two years at a time — he was one of the first to sign up. And a few months ago he was one of the first people in Nevada to get approved. In that moment, Alan said, “I felt the fear vanish. I felt accepted.”

So today, Alan is in his second year at the College of Southern Nevada. Alan is studying to become a doctor. He hopes to join the Air Force. He’s working hard every single day to build a better life for himself and his family. And all he wants is the opportunity to do his part to build a better America.  

So in the coming weeks, as the idea of reform becomes more real and the debate becomes more heated, and there are folks who are trying to pull this thing apart, remember Alan and all those who share the same hopes and the same dreams. Remember that this is not just a debate about policy. It’s about people. It’s about men and women and young people who want nothing more than the chance to earn their way into the American story.

Throughout our history, that has only made our nation stronger. And it’s how we will make sure that this century is the same as the last: an American century welcoming of everybody who aspires to do something more, and who is willing to work hard to do it, and is willing to pledge that allegiance to our flag.

17 Cents and a Dream

My Incredible Journey from the U.S.S.R. to Living the American Dream

— book review by Scott Lorenz

Daniel Milstein, founder, president, and CEO of Gold Star Mortgage Financial Group, describes his personal path to success in a new memoir, 17 Cents & a Dream: My Incredible Journey from the USSR to Living the American Dream.

More after the jump.
17 Cents & a Dream begins with a candid, gripping account of the Milstein family’s tough life in Kiev, Ukraine under the oppressive government of the former Soviet Union. He recalls how he and his family were affected by the 1986 explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant: Daniel was ten years old, and the disaster took place only 78 miles from their home, killing 100,000 people and spreading poisonous radiation throughout the environment.

A few years later the family, struggling against poverty, government oppression, and anti-Semitism, made a secret plan to flee to America. After a narrow escape, the family arrived in Ann Arbor, Michigan with no understanding of English and few belongings.

Young Daniel had only seventeen cents in his pocket, given to him by a friend to cover the expense of a postage stamp so that Daniel could send him a letter. In the ensuing years, Daniel endured extreme poverty, endless hunger, relentless bullying from his new classmates all while working long hours mopping floors and cleaning restrooms at a McDonald’s.

“The never-ending sense of hunger in the pit of my stomach,” he writes, “became a part of me and manifested into the drive to do more, to be more, so my family could eat without worry.”

That hunger, plus the work ethic instilled in him by his grandfather, fueled Milstein’s determination; after graduating from college, he worked for various financial institutions and was consistently promoted because of his strong work ethic.

But perhaps most inspiring is Milstein’s courage and sheer willpower as he began to build upon his success in the world of finance, working harder and longer than anyone else until eventually opening and growing his own multimillion-dollar company, Gold Star Mortgage Financial Group.

17 Cents & a Dream: My Incredible Journey from the USSR to Living the American Dream is both a dramatic autobiography of a true American success story, and a manual for anyone who dreams of becoming successful in today’s competitive world of finance and sales.  

Immigration Reform Is In America’s Interest

— by Professor Matthew Hirsch

Immigration reform will be high on Congress’ agenda. After failing in 2007, comprehensive immigration reform is again in the public eye and opponents seem to be inching toward compromise.

Why this sudden turn into the winds of controversy? One, Republican leaders recognize that shifting demographics helped President Obama win re-election and they do not want to be the party of “no” on immigration. Two, both parties understand that Congress is viewed as a pit of petty partisanship and both believe that immigration reform could yield a bipartisan bill that could improve the legislature’s low standing and bring political gains.

And though these are good reasons for compromise on immigration, there are at least five other good reasons for supporting reform, including legalization of undocumented immigrants.

More after the jump.

  • Today’s system contributes to illegal immigration. Americans don’t realize that it takes years for a green card holder to bring a spouse or child to the U.S. As a result, some separated families ignore the law by entering illegally or by overstaying. Similarly, it takes years for a U.S. employer to bring in workers “the right way.” Instead, faced with the demands of ripening fruit, unkempt hotels or uncut grass, employers hire the undocumented.
  • Legalizing the undocumented will reduce the deficit. Everyone complains that the undocumented don’t pay taxes. In fact, they contribute to revenues through sales, gas and “sin” taxes, lottery tickets and gambling, application and licensing fees and rents. And they commonly make Social Security contributions, often under mismatched Social Security numbers. (This means that they put into that system, but don’t take anything out — to the tune of $7 billion per year). Even so, legalizing the undocumented would mean billions in fines and in income and employment taxes.
  • Immigrants, whether legal or not, revitalize cities. Neighborhoods that had seen better days are seeing new life from waves of 21st century immigrants. Most new immigrants are thrifty and hardworking, and move quickly from renting to homeownership. Soon, neighborhoods will see new shops, groceries, and restaurants and catering to the tastes of their community. While the sounds and spices of these changing neighborhoods might roil some, without these new groups many neighborhoods would be left lifeless and impoverished.
  • Immigration restriction has high costs for many families. There are estimated 10 million undocumented immigrants in this country. Many have spouses and children who are citizens. Deporting them or driving them out hurts their families, pushing them toward dependency. With a wage earner in the household, these families have a chance at economic stability and mobility. Without one, the children are faced with the challenges of single-parent homes, lower incomes, more reliance on government support and higher risk of falling prey to drugs, gangs and teen pregnancy.
  • Economics favor legalizing the undocumented. With estimated costs of deportation exceeding $200 billion, no one thinks it is possible to deport the undocumented. Self-deportation — increasing pressure through restrictions — is self-defeating. Just ask the people in cities that passed tough laws to drive out illegal immigrants. In short, most of the undocumented are here to stay. In contrast, while the undocumented do impose costs in such areas as law enforcement, medical care and education, on balance the economic impact would be favorable, by some estimates adding $1.5 trillion to the nation’s economy over the next decade.

These are just some of the reasons to support an immigration reform, which includes a path to citizenship. Other aspects are less controversial. Yes, we want to secure the border against threats and we want to promote respect for the law. But we also want to create an immigration system that helps America be stronger, more vital and more competitive.

At the top end, we want to attract and retain the best and brightest and not erect barriers that discourage them from staying in America. We need immigration laws that recognize the demands of our economy in such areas as hospitality, health care and agriculture. We need immigration laws that unite families and do not force eligible immigrants to wait a decade or longer to come legally to America.

For some Americans, immigration feels like a threat – to culture, to jobs, to ways of life. Ultimately, it will be up to our lawmakers in both parties to look beyond politics and to summon the courage to enact a reform, which is in America’s national interest.

Matthew I. Hirsch, an immigration attorney in suburban Philadelphia, is a former immigration trial attorney with the federal government. He is an adjunct professor of immigration law at Widener University School of Law and serves on the board of the American Immigration Council.

New Website: The Jewish Voter Test

Today, the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) released a microsite, The Jewish Voter Test, asking Jewish voters if they agree or disagree with basic questions underlying some of the most pressing domestic and foreign policy issues of our time.

“Every Jewish voter faces a clear choice between two candidates with almost polar opposite stances on so many issues that are vitally important to our community,” said David A. Harris, President and CEO of NJDC. “This new website will offer American Jews a fun, easy and factual test to see where they really stand on the political spectrum.”

The quiz leads participants through the following “yes” and “no” questions:

More after the jump.

  1. Undocumented immigrants who were brought into the U.S. as children should be allowed to earn a path to citizenship if they join the military or go to college.
  2. As the Buffett Rule suggests, legislation should bar America’s wealthiest from paying a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than those in the middle class.
  3. Laws regarding abortion should be based on the concept that life begins at conception.
    Insurance companies should be required to cover the cost of contraceptives.
  4. Same-sex marriage should be illegal.
    Healthcare in this country should reflect the values of the Affordable Care Act, which expands access to healthcare regardless of income or pre-existing conditions, as well as allowing those under the age of 26 to stay on their parents’ healthcare plan.
  5. Medicare should be completely overhauled and privatized.
  6. Federal legislation, such as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, is necessary to provide women with more legal pathways in the fight for equal pay.
  7. America and Israel should have an unbreakable bond, and the unprecedented level of security cooperation between our two countries should continue.
  8. To prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, there must be very strong sanctions, and no options — including military action — should be taken off the table.

You can visit the website here: www.jewishvotertest.com

DREAM Act Protects Children From Deportation

Reactions to the Department of Homeland Security’s new policy directive halting deportations of immigrants who have met the standards of achievement and responsibility that would have qualified them for residency status under the as yet unpassed DREAM Act. There new policies remove the threat of deportation from those who were brought to the United States as children.

Rabbi Steve Gutow, Jewish Council for Public Affairs:

Finally, reason and decency have come to the table in the immigration debate. The JCPA has advocated for passage of the DREAM Act to reward children who, despite their circumstances, have worked hard and remained in school.  But in the face of legislative stagnation, we applaud President Obama and Secretary Napolitano for issuing this policy directive on behalf of young and committed immigrants to permit them to stay and be a part of our nation. This step will assuage their fears that they could be deported at a moment’s notice.

The biblical mandate to treat the stranger as our own holds particularly true to American Jews. Just as we were strangers in Egypt, many Jews began as strangers in America. In light of many of our own experiences, we have an obligation to see that today’s immigrants, looking for a share in the freedom and prosperity of America, are met with the same opportunities we have had.

Larry Gold, JCPA Chair:

Our immigration laws have increasingly been used as a means of turning people away, not welcoming them, betraying the promise of America as a nation that has benefited from the contributions of immigrants from all corners of the world. Today’s directive by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is a welcome step.  Finally, those who were brought to the United States as children and worked every day since then to graduate from our schools or serve our country in the military, do not need to fear that their success and effort will be destroyed with deportation.”

Marc R. Stanley and David A. Harris:

I want to express our strong support for President Obama’s crucial effort to help reform America’s immigration system. These new measures will remove the threat of deportation from those who were too young to have any say over their legal status, and this effort represents a fair and just policy for those who have known deep uncertainty and fear throughout their lives. The beneficiaries of this decision have worked hard to find a place in the country that they call home. Many of these young people have even risked their lives as members of the armed forces; these young people deserve the opportunity to reach for the American dream without it being denied.

American Jews — as descendants of immigrants, if not immigrants ourselves — understand profoundly what it means to have a shot at success in America. The provisions announced by the President today provide that opportunity. Once again, President Obama has implemented a policy that reflects the values of the vast majority of American Jews — and indeed most Americans — and we thank him for his bold leadership.

Romney Perfects Endorsements

Candidate cannot leave well enough alone.

Romney was endorsed by the Arizona Republic on Friday, and he was quick to share the news with voters in Arizona, but in reproducing the endorsement he left out key sections critical of his immigration policy.

Similarly, last week he was endorsed by the Detroit News and left out the key paragraph highlighting Romney’s criticism of the auto bailout:

We disagree with Romney on a point vital to Michigan – his opposition to the bailout of the domestic automobile industry. Romney advocated for a more traditional bankruptcy process, while we believe the bridge loans provided by the federal government in the fall of 2008 were absolutely essential to the survival of General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Corp. The issue isn’t a differentiator in the GOP primary, since the entire field opposed the rescue effort.

This manipulation of the endorsement was charactized by the Detroit News as a “distortion” of their words.

TPM’s Benjy Sarlin:

The auto czar who led the bailout, Steve Rattner, has a simple challenge to Mitt Romney’s claim that private investors could have rescued Detroit: find me one.

Rattner, writing in the New York Times, wrote on Friday that Romney’s contention that American automakers didn’t need federal loans to move them through a managed bankruptcy intact is ludicrous given that the only financiers big enough to step in were barely hanging on for dear lives themselves.

Last month, Buzzfeed reported that the Romney campaign was also editing transcripts of its own conference calls with the press to leave out pointed questions and less than stellar answers from its surrogates. In addition, the campaign edited an article on supporter John McCain to leave out a section on their past disagreements and left out concerns in a Des Moines Register endorsement over Romney’s history of changing positions on some issues.

Immigration “Reform” Discussed at Panel

The impact of racism and fear over immigration on local economics and politics will be the topic of a panel discussion, held at the Liberties Bar, 709 North Second Street, 2nd floor, on Thursday, February 23, 2012, at 7:00 PM.
The panel discussion will be sponsored by the Philadelphia chapter of the Jewish Labor Committee (JLC), the Philadelphia chapter of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), and Philadelphia Jobs with Justice.

More after the jump.
The panel will include:

  • State Representative Babette Josephs;
  • Wendell W. Young IV, President United Food and Commercial Workers’ Union Local 1776;
  • immigration attorney David Bennion, Esq.; and
  • immigration activist Jessica Hyejin Lee.

The panel will be moderated by Judi Bernstein-Baker, Executive Director of HIAS Pennsylvania.

See flyer for more details.

B’nai Brith Commends President’s Stance on Iran in SOTU

— by Sharon Bender

B’nai B’rith is encouraged by President Obama’s State of the Union commitment to “take no options off the table” to “prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.” Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, has ignored international entreaties to cease its quest for nuclear weapons. B’nai B’rith commends the world powers that have united behind the United States to implement sanctions against the Tehran regime.

We also welcome the concrete support the president gave Israel when he stated unequivocally that the ties between the United States and Israel are strong:

Our iron-clad commitment to Israel’s security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history.

On the domestic front, the president indicated he will seek comprehensive immigration reform measures this year, will work to lessen America’s dependence on foreign oil and will continue to work to ensure health care reform measures help those Americans who need it most-all issues B’nai B’rith strongly supports..

It was encouraging that the president noted the precarious situation in Syria, stating:

I have no doubt that the Assad regime will soon discover that the forces of change can’t be reversed, and that human dignity can’t be denied.

As an organization committed to human rights, B’nai B’rith paid special attention to the president’s declaration of the need for global tolerance:

We will stand for the rights and dignity of all human beings…We will support policies that lead to strong and stable democracies and open markets, because tyranny is no match for liberty.

B’nai B’rith supports the president’s call for a nationwide investment in and overhaul of our current energy policies, touting alternative energy programs instead. The nation’s current dependence on foreign oil undermines our security and in some cases, forces the United States to deal with countries that may not share our commitment to democracy and freedom.

B’nai B’rith supports legislation that would help pave a smoother path to citizenship upon high school graduation for foreign-born children raised in the United States without documentation. We were pleased to see the president endorse this important measure. B’nai B’rith also supports the president’s call for women to earn “equal pay for equal work.”  

The president’s reiteration of his commitment to health care reform was also welcome:

I will not go back to the days when health insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny you coverage, or charge women differently from men.

More after the jump.
B’nai B’rith has long supported comprehensive health care reform and is an advocate of the legislation that gives all Americans equal access to medical care.

B’nai B’rith hopes the president maintains his stated commitment to protecting the promise of retirement security for America’s seniors. But we will be vigilant as we ensure Medicare and Social Security continue to serve those who most need these vital safety nets.

Regarding the payroll tax holiday that the president referenced, B’nai B’rith appreciates the president’s focus on keeping more wages in workers’ pockets.  

Recognizing that the annual address is meant as a framework for the president’s priorities, B’nai B’rith will analyze the details as they emerge and work to ensure action on our key priorities.

B’nai B’rith International, the Global Voice of the Jewish Community, is the oldest and most widely known Jewish humanitarian, human rights and advocacy organization.  For 168 years, B’nai B’rith International has worked for Jewish unity, security, continuity and tolerance.  Visit www.bnaibrith.org.