Aaron Lawee is a Chicago-based Immigration Attorney and a JCUA Member.
Despite repeated campaign promises, the Trump Administration has shown anything but “heart” in its decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program this fall. This decision has thrown the lives of 800,000 Dreamers and their families into turmoil. U.S. citizen children suddenly risk losing their parents or older siblings. Employers will lose workers they rely on to make their companies stronger. And people who have grown up in the United States since childhood, who are American in every way except on paper, may be forced to return to a country they know nothing about and perhaps do not even speak the language.
Our immigration laws currently provide no protection or path to legal status for hundreds of thousands of Dreamers whose lives are suddenly in limbo. There is simply no benefit to our country to subject these people to deportation, break up families, and throw countless businesses into disarray.
Each week, Jews read a section of the Torah. This week’s Torah portion, parshat Va’era, marks the start of the 10 plagues and the Exodus from Egypt. As the Hebrews begin to coalesce into a nation, we read about the hard labor and the hardening of Pharoah’s heart. As Jews who tell the Passover story each year, we read this with an eye not just to the departure from Egypt, but to the final destination of the Promised Land.
The haftarah this week, a short reading that follows the Torah portion, also focuses on this story, but begins with what happens once the Israelites reach their homeland: “And they shall dwell upon it securely, and they shall build houses and plant vineyards and dwell securely.” (Ezekiel 28:26). The message is clear: A land whose inhabitants cannot “dwell securely” is no promised land.
America could be that land, not just for Jews, but for the world. Yet we have repeatedly failed to live up to Emma Lazarus’ famous exhortation at the base of the Statute of Liberty. We have not learned our lesson since the SS St. Louis was denied entrance to the United States, sending hundreds of Jews to their deaths during the Holocaust. Let us not make that mistake again.
As you reflect on this week’s Torah and haftarah portions, as you begin to relive the Exodus story we retell every year on Passover, do not forget that this story is not only a tale from days gone by. It is happening right here in our very own communities, as hundreds of thousands of people are struggling for a way to “dwell securely” in their land. Congress can, and must, fix this problem.
Every day that Congress refuses to act, roughly 122 Dreamers lose their status. Congress must protect Dreamers now by passing legislation that will permanently protect them from deportation, provide them with lawful status, and recognize them as the Americans they are. Furthermore, the fate of these families should not be tied to funding for a wasteful and unnecessary wall or to an end to family immigration. Please call your member of Congress and urge them to vote for a clean DREAM Act. You do not have to be Moses to help bring someone to their promised land.