NEW YORK – US Jewish organizations across the political spectrum expressed outrage at President Donald Trump’s decision on Tuesday to cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA, and vowed to take action against it.
Trump delayed implementation of the cancellation for six months to give Congress time to act Established by the Obama administration in 2012, DACA allows certain illegal aliens, who were brought to the country as children, to receive renewable, two-year periods of deferred action from deportation, and eligibility for work permits. The decision to cancel the program puts more than 800,000 young people, called Dreamers, who have lived in the United States for most of their lives, at risk of deportation.
“This action by the president and his administration is cruel, unnecessary and inconsistent with the core values of our country,” Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote in a statement on Tuesday.
“We support an immigration policy that is comprehensive, protects our security, reunites families and improves our economy while honoring our values as a nation of immigrants.”
Greenblatt, who called on Congress to “act now” to stop the executive action, added that “the lives of hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who were brought to this country as children now hang in the balance.”
“They are some of our best and brightest. They are doctors, lawyers, teachers and members of the military,” he said. “They are our neighbors, our friends, and members of our communities. They came out of the shadows, relying on a promise from the federal government that they would be protected. Now they are in danger.”
Thousands protests across US after Trump ends 'Dreamer' immigration program, Spetember 6, 2017. (Reuters)
Richard T. Foltin, director of national and legislative affairs at the American Jewish Committee, said, “Dismantling DACA is a devastating blow to hundreds of thousands of young people who have benefited from the program – and who have in turn contributed to communities across the country in which they live.
“Welcoming, not penalizing, these young people, who, as children, could not have knowingly violated any law, is in consonance with our nation’s foundational principles,” Foltin said, The AJC has been active in the coalition of religious and civic groups that supported DACA from its establishment, and has urged Congress to enact legislation extending DACA or making it permanent.
The organization T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights also has been actively campaigning to protect immigrants threatened with deportation.
Earlier this year it began a campaign on the matter, which now includes a network of 60 synagogues throughout the US, all committed to protect Dreamers if Congress does not act to preserve DACA, and if Immigration and Customs Enforcement begins targeting those concerned.
“The reversal of DACA deals a devastating blow to these young people and to their families,” said Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of the organization. “We will all suffer the loss of talented and motivated young people, who are studying, working, and contributing to our communities.”
In rescinding the program, she said, the federal government is using Dreamers for the political agenda of “terrifying every undocumented immigrant in our country, and for promoting a white supremacist vision of America.
“Within the Jewish community, many of our own families are alive today because of the relatively open immigration policies of the late 19th and early 20th centuries,” Jacobs said. “And too many Jews died after being trapped in Europe when the borders closed in 1924.”
Forcing Dreamers back to the countries where they were born is “cruelty,” she added.
“T’ruah will continue to mobilize rabbis and their communities to stand up for immigrants, to provide sanctuary, and to bring the Torah of justice to the doorstep of President Trump and his administration,” the statement read.
J Street also called the decision “cruel and destructive,” and vowing to use its advocacy tools to urge Congress to take action upholding DACA and defending the Dreamers.
According to the group, “it is absolutely clear that this decision by the Trump administration is not based on legal or economic concerns,” but is “pure and simple, just the latest in a series of punitive acts designed to cater to the fears and hatreds of an extreme minority of Americans.
“Indeed, this administration to date has shown little respect for the rule of law or the basic principles of our democracy,” J Street said. ‘We will do everything we can to support the incredible efforts of the organizations on the front lines of this fight, both in the Jewish community and beyond.”
Several other groups joined in committing to lobby against the decision, including the leading Jewish organization for refugee rights, HIAS, and the Reform Movement, which called Trump’s initiative “morally misguided.”
In California, Jewish congregations and other faith communities that are part of the PICO California group have also announced that they are establishing the “Dream Safe Haven Network,” to provide support and community for those who would be affected by DACA’s cancellation.
“This is 21st-century ‘ethnic cleansing’ at its finest, and in times like these, we will know who our friends are by those willing to lay their lives down for our human siblings across the spectrum,” Rev. Ben McBride, co-director of PICO California, said.
During the past five years, hundreds of PICO California congregations and faith communities have helped register more than 40,000 Dreamers to receive the protections and work authorizations DACA has provided.
“The white supremacist ideology that undergirds the DACA announcement today is unmistakable,” PICO California wrote. “Trump and [US Attorney-General Jeff] Sessions are saying today that 800,000 brown and black young people, simply by virtue of their immigration status, deserve to be permanently removed from our communities.”
Tuesday’s announcement is not the first by the Trump administration’s targeting of immigrants. Less than two weeks ago, Trump pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who created what he himself described as “concentration camps” for immigrants in his state.
Earlier this year, the White House issued an executive order withholding federal funds from sanctuary cities, which limits their cooperation with the national government effort to enforce immigration law.
In his first weeks in office, the president also drew criticism when he signed an executive order to bar entry to the United States for people coming from seven Muslim countries.