Today I had the opportunity to join a press conference in response to the news that DACA will be rescinded. The event was led by immigrant rights organizers and members of our state legislature's POCI (People of Color and Indigenous) caucus, who released and read a statement in response to the announcement. It's incredibly powerful. You can and should read it here.
I will never understand the courage it takes to live undocumented in this country or the acts of bravery that parents undertake when they risk their lives to give their child a better one. I was honored to stand there with them and to represent my organization, which for many years has worked in partnership with immigrant communities. I did not lay this foundation, but it's my responsibility and privilege to nurture these relationships, to carry this work forward.
Later, I was supposed to speak at a rally. It was a march with several stops, and I wasn't sure at which stop I was supposed to speak. I got caught up talking to our members, I stopped to return a borrowed phone charger, I felt uncomfortable pushing myself forward and asking for space. So for so many reasons, I fell behind and I didn't speak. Which was fine. I stood and listened to the Dreamers, the young people who have been the beneficiaries of DACA. Their clarity and willingness to share their stories made me want to believe in America again. Two different bands played us along as we marched. An imam gave me a pastry just as I needed a snack. It was a beautiful outpouring of friendship and community in response to one of the most cruel and dangerous actions the president has taken since January.
But I will tell you what I would have said. I would have said that I represent Jewish Community Action, whose members organize for racial and economic justice in Minnesota. As Jews, we are told 36 times in our text, the Torah, that we must treat the stranger with compassion and empathy. We are instructed on the treatment of the stranger more than any other topic - it's important. We've been the stranger, sometimes we still are. It would be better if no one would ever be made to feel like the stranger, but we are to welcome them when they do.
But besides our text, we are driven by our own history. We are, some of us, the beneficiaries of illegal immigration. In the 1920s, US immigration policy contracted several times, restricting certain kinds of immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe. Jews, and also Italians and Greeks, and many others who have now safely reached the other side of their journey and have become Americans, were turned away. Many came anyway. Of course they did. What would we expect of parents willing to risk their lives to give their child a better one? We can't know how many, but since 1924 it's likely that tens of thousands of Jews arrived without documentation.
This is not a universal story, there is no universal American Jewish story. Jews have emigrated to or have been brought to America from all over the world and this continues today. This is one story, but one that when we tell, we often forget or leave out this truth, that we have not always waited in lines, we have not always waited for our number to be called. Sometimes there was no line available for us to wait in and we came anyway.
Now we stand with immigrants in solidarity, we'll work to see the provisions of DACA codified in legislation, like it should have been. We'll support our immigrant neighbors in fighting for long-term solutions with dignity and humanity. In solidarity, and in justice, and in truth.
Jewish Community Action