PURSUING SOCIAL JUSTICE: In Hope of a Better Tomorrow: How to Help Ensure Justice for Immigrants

BY ELIZABETH LEFF , 10/24/2017

Lech L’cha, Genesis chapters 12:1-17:2, reveals the ancient promise from God of a new and greater land. In this Torah portion, we read, “The Eternal One said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. And I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will glorify your name, and [you shall] be a blessing.’” (Genesis 12:1-3).

As an American Jew, I am familiar with this language. These words are the foundation of the American dream; they are how Lady Liberty welcomes newcomers to the American shore. These are the words of the promised land and the land of milk and honey. They live true in Micah and “Hamilton” alike, when we read “And they shall dwell each person under their vine and under their fig tree, and no one shall make them move, for the mouth of the Lord of Hosts has spoken” (Micah 4:4). They represent the bliss that comes from the certainty of tomorrow.

For me, the promise and certainty of tomorrow is often as simple as the confidence and excitement with which I approach my future, a privilege I may never fully appreciate. For 11 million undocumented people in the United States, this certainty is illusive – it hangs in the balance of a deeply complicated and intoxicatingly bureaucratic governmental system that is neither nimble nor quick.

On September 5, 2017, the Trump administration rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA has allowed nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrant youth, brought to the United States as children, to obtain work permits, attend school, and contribute openly to our economy without fear of deportation. In many cases, these young people grew up in the United States and want to give back to society and raise their own families in the only nation they know as home. By ending DACA and its protections, the administration again made these DACA recipients, known as DREAMers, vulnerable to detention or deportation. It took away their certainty about tomorrow.

The first step on a long road of immigrant justice reform is the passage of a clean Dream Act of 2017 (“clean” means the legislation includes no additional funding for enforcement or a border wall). Passage of the bipartisan Dream Act (S.1615/H.R.3440) would permit conditional permanent residents to obtain lawful permanent residence status (known as “getting a green card”), and then provide a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers who attend college, work in the U.S., or serve in the military.

The message of Lech L’cha promotes a better land in a better place. For hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth living in fear and in danger of deportation, the United States is, nonetheless, still their better place. We have a responsibility as Jews to leverage the full power of our community and urge our representatives to pass the clean Dream Act, giving back to these people the certainty of their tomorrow.

Here are four ways to do so:

Attend an Immigrant Justice Shabbat Observance on November 3-4, 2017. Find a congregation near you and inquire if the community is participating in this initiative.

Sign up to participate in a call-in day on Monday, November 6. 2017, to push the Dream Act in Congress.

Urge your Congressional representatives to pass the clean Dream Act.
Amplify this effort on social media by following the RAC on Twitter, like the RAC on Facebook, and using the hashtag #Faith4Dream.

Elizabeth Leff is an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, where her portfolio includes immigration, among other issues. She grew up at Lake Placid Synagogue in Lake Placid, NY, and is a graduate of New York University.