Every so often at Shabbat services, service leaders mark key events in our nation’s history, such as when the Supreme Court decided in favor of marriage equality, or when the Affordable Care Act passed. Whether these events are worked into the weekly sermon or there’s simply a mention before we begin our prayers, marking these events is an important reminder that our lives as Jewish people are inseparable from our identity as Americans.
This past week, we had one of these critical moments, yet I heard nothing.
Last Thursday, the Supreme Court deadlocked in a decision that blocked President Obama’s DACA+ and DAPA executive actions that would’ve kept families together and protected millions of people from deportation. Specifically, DACA+ would have expanded DACA, the program that protects undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children from deportation. DAPA would have shielded undocumented parents of U.S. citizens from deportation. The human effects of the Supreme Court decision were painfully clear when I was standing at the Court after the decision was announced: A five- or six-year old boy, who is a U.S. citizen, stood alone on the steps of the Court with a t-shirt that read, “Don’t deport my mom.” Mothers in pink t-shirts and heart-shaped signs reading “Keep Families Together” stood in groups, crying because the decision means they could be separated from their children and deported any day for no reason other than their immigration status.
This Supreme Court case, which followed years of tireless advocacy from these mothers and many others, was monumental for immigrant communities in our country — and it should be recognized as a major event for all Americans, especially Jewish Americans.
As we are reminded every year at Passover, “you shall love [strangers] as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” [Leviticus 19:33-34]. From our ancestors fleeing Egypt to our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents immigrating to the United States at the turn of the last century, we have always been called upon to welcome the stranger. Now more than ever, we have the opportunity to act upon this obligation.
First and foremost, we should do this through voting against Donald Trump, his xenophobia, and his mass deportation pledges. Hillary Clinton, for her part, has advocated throughout her campaign for comprehensive immigration reform and for keeping families together.
But our obligation doesn’t stop there. Anti-immigrant Republicans in Congress laid the groundwork for Trump by blocking immigration reform, inflaming anti-immigrant extremism, and voting time and time again to block President Obama’s immigration actions that keep families together. Sadly, President Obama’s record isn’t spotless either; he continues to deport Central American refugees — including mothers and children — who have fled to our country in fear for their safety. We should elevate these issues at home or with coworkers, vote against anti-immigrant politicians at every level, and speak up against the president for his actions against Central American refugees.
As Jewish Americans, we’ve always been closely tied to the issue of immigration. I hope that last week’s horrible Supreme Court decision serves as a wakeup call for our responsibility not just to support, but to become true champions of, immigrants today.