Letter: Local Jewish Activists Call On Biden To Restore Decency and Fairness To Asylum And Immigration Process

Photo: Sandor Csudai. KNUM.org. Creative Commons

President Biden needs to do a lot more work on immigration. We deeply disagree with his description of the problem and his proposed solutions. Before cavalierly dismissing people who came here without documents as “illegal,” (with its unspoken implication of unworthy), we need to look at why so many migrants are massing on our border. It is because of horrendous conditions–from gang murders to systemic extreme poverty–that in many cases can be traced very directly to decades of US policies.

Refugees only flee their home when the risk of staying in the place they love becomes greater than the trauma of leaving. It’s not something people do just to find a better life; they do it because they have no other choice. Seeking asylum is an internationally recognized right. Crossing a border to seek asylum is legal, even during a pandemic. As a group of Jews and allies working for immigration justice, we in Jewish Activists For Immigration Justice (JAIJ) are acutely aware that only a few decades ago, it was us, the Jewish people, who were fleeing for our lives and turned away at the border, leaving many of our ancestors no choice to but to cross the U.S. border without permission.

Why are so many crossing our southern border without US documents? Because it is nearly impossible for people from Haiti, parts of Africa, and Latin America to immigrate legally. If you don’t let people come in the front door, don’t put the blame on them when they come around to the back. (The Afghans have only been able to attain humanitarian parole status because of our recent withdrawal from the country and the resulting takeover by the Taliban.)  

As a candidate, President Biden promised to end the deliberate cruelty and hostility to immigrants that was official policy under the previous administration: the tearing of children from the arms of their family members, the imprisonment of thousands in horrible conditions for the “crime” of fleeing their home country for their lives, and the “Remain in Mexico” policy that exposed those already traumatized to kidnapping, robbery, rape, and yes, murder. The American Immigration Council reveals horrifying numbers: at least 1,544 publicly documented cases of rape, kidnapping, assault, and other crimes.”

But instead of adhering to the values of welcoming the stranger, repairing the world, and helping those in need, the Biden administration has expelled 1 million people under Title 42, which has been denounced by over 1300 medical professionals as a bogus policy that has no basis in public health). And more than 200,000 petitions with the same demand were recently turned in to the administration, including 147 that were collected by JAIJ from Jewish leaders and organizations.

Yes, it is true that President Biden has failed to do what needs to be done on the US-Mexico border. But rather than keeping the door slammed against refugees in their time of deepest need, he should keep his campaign promises to restore decency and fairness to the asylum and immigration processes.

For Jewish Activists for Immigration Justice (in alphabetical order)

Holly Bishop
Annique Boomsma
Joan Epstein
D. Dina Friedman
Shel Horowitz
Ellen Kaufman
Alice Levine
Karen Levine

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