White House Sparks Ire

Several Jewish organizations have expressed their disappointment in President Barack Obama’s delay on addressing immigration until after the mid-term elections in November.

Speaking to the new host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Chuck Todd, on Sunday, the president justified breaking an earlier promise that he would reform immigration policy by executive order by the end of the summer, because waiting until the fall will be “more sustainable and more effective.”

Several organizations, some of whom had written the White House at the end of last week, expressed their disappointment in the president and in Congress for failing to help immigrant families and children who have come to America to escape Central American violence.

“Delay means that thousands more hardworking immigrants, some of whom have been in this country for decades, will be needlessly torn from their homes, jobs, communities and families,” Melanie Nezer, vice president of advocacy and policy at HIAS, a global Jewish organization that aims to protect refugees, said in a statement. “Delay means support and solutions for the children and others seeking relief from relentless violence in Central America will remain on hold. The delays have gone on long enough.”

Some see the delay as a calculated political move to avoid potential impacts an executive order would have on the November elections.

“We are deeply disappointed that the president is bowing to the pressure of those who fear that taking a stand will impact their chances of reelection in November,” Nancy Kaufman, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, said in a statement. “While we believe that the president’s commitment to comprehensive reform is sincere, we question how the administration can continue to allow 1,100 undocumented residents to be deported each and every day.”

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism focused its sentiments on the various effects a delay on immigration will have.

“Because of Congress’ failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform, family members remain separated, employers continue to face challenges meeting their needs, our nation’s security is weakened and undocumented young people who wish to contribute to the only nation they know as home — and their families — live with uncertainty about their future,” Barbara Weinstein, director of the commission on social action of Reform Judaism, said in a statement. “The time for action on immigration reform is long past due.”

Earlier this month, a coalition of 40 interfaith leaders — including Kaufman; Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of the HIAS; Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, founder and president of Uri L’Tzedek Orthodox Social Justice and Jared Feldman, vice president and Washington director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs — sent the president a one-sentence letter about potential executive action on Central American immigrants.

“While we celebrate the potential of executive action to alleviate the suffering caused by our nation’s broken immigration system — particularly in light of political inaction in Congress — it must not come at the cost of due process and access to humanitarian protection for children and families fleeing violence in Central America,” it read.

In a conference call prior to the president’s decision, Kaufman spoke about the Passover story and how Jews were once “strangers in a strange land” as well as the Jews of Europe being prevented to enter the U.S. and other counties during the Holocaust.

“We recall not only our ancient history, but our more recent history when we were rejected at the door of this country and most countries in the 1940s and as a result lost millions of our people,” said Kaufman. “Passover tells a story of liberation, and we remember that we were strangers, and we remember that it is our mandate to welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, feed the hungry.”

mshapiro@jewishtimes.com

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