Undocumented students graduate at UCLA 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
President Barack Obama’s policy direction with regard to young illegal
immigrants moved me deeply. I watched the president’s statement on TV and heard
the interviews with joyous Latina and Latino young people talking about their
dreams having a chance to come true. They talked about working to have their
parents become legal, too. In every respect they reflected the president’s
description of them: “They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in
every single way but one: on paper.” Tears welled up in my eyes.
Saturday as I listened to the Torah portion being chanted, I read there: “One
law and one ordinance both for you and for the stranger that live with you.”
This equal justice declaration applies to civil law. I have read it and heard it
many times. I know this thought appears in the Torah 36 times, making it
emphatic for the Jewish people.
I feel proud to be a Jew and an
I thought of my mother who was sent back from Ellis Island
after the restrictive immigration quota laws were enacted in 1921 and 1924. She
made it to Ellis Island, having survived the Russian Revolution and the Ukraine
counter-revolution. She hid in cellars, her mother died there, and a bullet went
through my mother’s dress fortunately missing all parts of her body. When she
got to Ellis Island she was further traumatized by the immigration officials
applying the quotas to her because of where she was born. She was still a
teenager. There she was separated from her father.
My father, not
American-born, entered the US with my mother from Canada. Neither of them had
the requisite papers to prove their legality. I was born in America 75 years
ago. I recall the struggles my parents went through to be citizens. My
mother lived in constant fear though we were never investigated or threatened.
President Obama’s statement applied to them and they would have loved
As American Jews, as a people accepted and welcomed by our fellow
Americans, we have a special responsibility to support efforts to give people a
decent chance to enjoy what we now do: safety, personal security, economic
opportunity, a chance to participate and contribute to our community.
Obama policy masterfully uses the long-established legal practice of
prosecutorial discretion, as Senator Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) aptly put it,
to enable young illegal immigrants, who are in the military or in school, to
come out of the shadows, and into the sunlight, and work legally. Secretary
Napolitano, in conversations with me and others, demonstrates that she and her
team have thought through the plan and, most importantly, its implementation.
That makes the hope real for the Dreamers helped by this change in
It will make me work even harder for the president’s re-election.
The Dream policy must be reaffirmed.The writer has been a leader in
civil rights, anti-poverty, congressional reform and arms control issues since
the early 1960s. He has worked with Israeli Jewish American social justice
groups for over three decades.