Jewish Community Action has been consistent in our work for immigrant rights. We are instructed by our history and by our text--the Torah commands us 36 times to love, protect, and respect those new to our communities. Our faith stresses the importance of family, and compels us to support others in pursuit of better opportunities for their families in a different land.
"The time is now. Our communities yearn for justice. For family unity. For citizenship. For reform."
-President Obama, January 2013
Since our founding, our immigrant rights work has taken many different forms. Most recently, during the 2013 state legislative session, we were part of a diverse coalition that passed the Minnesota DREAM Act, making higher education more accessible to immigrant students. Prior to this monumental victory, we worked for city separation ordinances to keep local law enforcement from becoming involved in federal immigration law; to stop raids and keep families from being torn apart; and to work directly with the community of Postville, Iowa, and to march in Iowa (as recently as May 2013) to make known the inhumane business practices and broken immigration system that led to the 2008 immigration raid that devastated their town.
Currently, our immigrant rights work involves initiatives at both the local and federal levels. Locally, JCA has worked for years to pass legislation that would enable aspiring citizens to drive legally in the state, thus making roads safer for everyone. In 2014, the Drivers’ Licenses for All bill made great gains, making its way through the House Ways and Means Committee at the last moment of the session, and picking up strong, bipartisan support along the way. While the bill did not become law in 2014, we are confident that, with committed allies and legislators, it will reach Governor Dayton’s desk in 2015.
Nationally, JCA is part of a coalition working to protect the rights of immigrants detained as a result of the Secure Communities Act. The act, passed by Congress, is designed to detain and deport immigrants who commit felonies or other serious crimes, but has been used to target, detain, and deport immigrants whose only crime is lacking documentation. This act has created a climate of fear in many Latino communities, and has torn apart countless families. It is our hope that comprehensive immigration reform can put a stop to fear and unjust detentions.
With that goal and more in mind, we are working with our partners in Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice and others to pass comprehensive immigration reform measures—such as a pathway to citizenship for undocumented and future immigrants, family reunification, and worker protections—that will offer security and opportunity to millions of immigrants. Having worked for immigrant rights for well over a decade, we are encouraged by recent indications from both President Obama and the U.S. Senate that real change is finally within reach. We are prepared to work with local and national partners, and the Jewish community of the Twin Cities, to make sure that, as a nation, we do not miss this unique opportunity to reform a broken system into a system that works for all immigrants, all families, and all Americans.
Would your ancestors be admitted to the U.S. today? As we work for comprehensive immigration reform, it's important to understand just how restrictive our current immigration system is. Use the informative and interactive Entry Denied site (brought to you by JCA and Bend the Arc) to find out how your ancestors would do, and to contact your legislators directly!