Jews Unite Behind Push for Immigration Reform

Ethics and Self-Interest Drive Unusual Nationwide Effort

Rabbi Mark Diamond peers through a corrugated-iron wall along the border with Mexico. The American Jewish Committee leader is part of a nearly unprecendented push by Jewish groups for immigration reform
Rabbi Mark Diamond peers through a corrugated-iron wall along the border with Mexico. The American Jewish Committee leader is part of a nearly unprecendented push by Jewish groups for immigration reform

By Rex Weiner

Published June 26, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Rabbi Mark Diamond stood on the border with Mexico on a brisk February day, alongside the Rev. Alexei Smith of the Catholic Archdiocese, the Rev. Mary Glasspool of the Episcopal Diocese and a host of clergy from Presbyterian, Methodist and United Church of Christ ministries.

All of them peered through the corrugated steel wall at the rough miles between countries. The scene evoked thoughts of the old adage Mexicans invoke about their country: “So far from God, so close to the United States!”

Diamond, the American Jewish Committee’s Los Angeles director, who arranged the clerics’ 25-member fact-finding mission, is hoping to bridge a comparable distance — between a life of promise and a life of uncertainty — for millions of noncitizens in the United States.

Diamond’s key role in organizing this gathering was no isolated communal act. After months of delay, the U.S. Senate is set to vote on the most comprehensive immigration reform legislation in 27 years. And Jewish groups across the country are acting together in a way characteristic of the community on few issues besides Israel.

“It’s about the right thing to do,” said Robert Gittelson, co-founder of Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, and a Republican. In op-ed pieces and interviews, Gittelson, a retired Jewish businessman from California’s San Fernando Valley, has called certain GOP strategies on immigration reform “un-biblical” and “cruel.”

Those leading an active push for the bill, which will offer a path to citizenship for some of the nation’s 11 million undocumented aliens, include the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Bend the Arc and the National Council of Jewish Women.

The Senate vote — and the even harder struggle that will follow in the Republican-controlled House — represents the fulfillment of a sustained campaign by the Jewish community for immigration reform, which has built momentum over the past decade.

Whether or not the necessary votes are mustered from both houses to land a historic immigration law reform bill on President Obama’s desk, Jewish outreach, particularly in the Southwest — home to the largest share of America’s emerging and increasingly powerful ethnic and interfaith populations — promises to be politically and socially influential beyond the issue it addresses.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • For 22 years, Seeds of Peace has fostered dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian teens in an idyllic camp. But with Israel at war in Gaza, this summer was different. http://jd.fo/p57AB
  • J.J. Goldberg doesn't usually respond to his critics. But this time, he just had to make an exception.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.