Rabbi Serotta on Immigration Policy.
There is an old bumper sticker, it has probably been around since the Viet Nam War: “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” I can’t tell you how many people have told me that they can’t even watch the news, on any channel, as they hear the horrifying screams of children being separated from their parents. We should feel outrage at what our government is doing in our names. Our immigration system is broken. We all know that, but with the policy of this administration it is now shattered.
It is the new policy of this administration that any migrant family entering the U.S. without official documentation will be prosecuted for this misdemeanor. The parents get incarcerated and that leaves children to be warehoused since they are not allowed to accompany their parents to prison. Parents plead guilty to the misdemeanor in the hopes of getting their children back. Their sentence is usually the few days they served waiting for trial. Getting through the bureaucracy can take more time and the children are left in custody. Sometimes the parents are deported before getting the children and those kids are left behind in HHS “shelters” for an indeterminate amount of time. Children who have done nothing wrong are serving sentences as if they are criminals. It is an outrage.
There is a second apparently unwritten policy that even when the family presents themselves for official documentation, seeking asylum, the government is still separating children from their parents. Neither parents nor children have done anything wrong, but they must wait for an asylum hearing, not in jail, but in immigration detention which is not so different. This is a government choice, because you do not have to lock up people who have credible asylum claims. They could be beginning a productive life but the administration locks them and their children in separate facilities instead.
Imagine it was us and our families. If we come over the border without papers we lose our children. If we come over the border asking for asylum, we still lose our children. The best answer is to not get caught which is the exact opposite of what immigration policies are meant to convey. While immigration laws need comprehensive reform, these policies are unique to this administration and they could be ended with a simple call from the president.
Our tradition reminds us over and over to care for the stranger. The Torah teaches that we must not remain indifferent. How many times have we heard, that evil thrives when good people remain silent? This problem is not too big for us. Jewish organizations are joining with Islamic, Protestant and Catholic groups from all over the political spectrum to end these policies.
Our own Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism suggests six things we can do to help:
- Provide tangible support to detainees and separated families by gathering and sending toiletries and toys to the border. Send care packages to: Michael Blum Social Action Chair, Temple Emanuel, 4300 Chai Street (North C Street) McAllen, Texas 78504.
- Join a Families Belong Together mobilization in Washington, DC or hundreds of other cities around the U.S. on June 30, 2018. I will be in Washington that afternoon.
- Bring a congregational delegation to McAllen, TX home to the United States' largest immigration detention center. To do so, reach out to Rabbi Claudio Kogan of the URJ's Temple Emanuel in McAllen, who is eager for visitors to see this border community first hand. Friends of mine, including Rabbi David Stern and Rabbi Nancy Kasten from Dallas will be there tomorrow. Anyone want to take a trip?
- Send a letter demanding that President Trump, Secretary of Homeland Security Nielsen, and Attorney General Sessions end family separation now. Send a letter to our own congressional representatives to continue to push back on these policies.
- Organize or join a rally outside your local Immigration and Customs Enforcement office.
- Register for the North American Immigrant Justice Campaign's Deportation Defense Training on July 10, 2018. For more information about how to join this campaign, please visit RAC.org/naijc and download the RAC's Immigrant Justice Resource Guide.
I hope this outrage will end soon, but it is important to understand, that even if we succeed, this is just a skirmish in a larger conflict. Don’t let this administration move the goalposts. We cannot say dayenu, and be satisfied that ending these policies is enough. It is not enough until we raise our brothers and sisters and free them from the chains of oppression. Ending an outrage is a start, but real reform is the goal.