HIAS president Gideon Arnoff argues that Jews have a responsibility to support President Obama’s new push for immigration reform.
The next president will help set the national agenda on a wide range of issues of importance to the Jewish community. While our collective concern for the well-being of Israel has featured prominently in discussions of our community’s stake in the presidential election, Jewish groups are also vigorous participants in debates over a diverse array of other issues both foreign and domestic.
The House of Representatives is poised to ram through in the coming weeks a disastrous piece of legislation dubbed the “Save Act” that will imperil the ability of millions of Americans to work in this country and will waste countless more resources and money on a failed policy. As the disastrous failure of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration legislation recedes further into the background, it is becoming clearer that in its absence we have little hope of developing an immigration system that is holistic, compassionate and effective.
Next week the Senate will return from its Memorial Day recess to continue debating a sweeping immigration reform proposal. This debate will have a profound impact on the economy, culture and security of our country, as well as on the lives of millions of immigrants who have seen, and continue to see, the United States as the land of hope and opportunity.
Shmuel Kaplan, an 80-year-old amputee, breathed a sigh of relief in 1997 when the United States granted him political asylum after he fled antisemitism in the former Soviet Union. Two years later, we similarly received an Iranian boy, Rouzbeh Aliaghaei, and his parents. His mother was a high school teacher who had been imprisoned and twice fired for decrying the treatment of women and their lack of freedom. Nine-year-old Rouzbeh understood little about his family’s flight — he is afflicted with a rare genetic disorder resulting in profound mental retardation.
More than 350 years ago, New Amsterdam Governor Peter Stuyvesant welcomed the first 23 Jewish immigrants with open hostility and threats of deportation. In contrast, President George Washington, while addressing the Rhode Island Jewish community, offered full membership in American society for any newcomer who embraced American