This week President Donald Trump made headway on his campaign promises to keep immigrants out of our country — not by commencing work on his ill-conceived wall along the Mexican border, but with two virtual strokes of his pen.
First, on Sept. 5 the White House formally announced it was rescinding DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Created by President Obama in a 2012 executive order, it allowed some 800,000 young people brought illegally to this country as children — more than 200,000 of whom live in California — to receive work permits, enroll in college, obtain valid driver’s licenses and, most importantly, be protected from deportation.
For the vast majority of these young people, America is the only country they have ever known. For many English is their only language. In the absence of comprehensive immigration reform, DACA allowed them to come out of the shadows.
Trump’s decision this week takes all of it away. Worse, he punted to Congress to solve the problem. This is the same institution that couldn’t repeal or fix Obamacare, a goal the GOP leadership had agreed on for years. If it couldn’t manage that, how on earth will it resolve something as controversial as DACA?
For most of these young Dreamers, America is the only country they have ever known.
Answer: It probably won’t, which means those 800,000 young people, many gainfully employed or pursuing higher education, may find themselves in the not-too-distant future rounded up by ICE agents.
And that isn’t the only potentially terrible Trump decision looming on the horizon. According to a recent Times of Israel report, the president may drastically curtail J-1 visas for cultural and educational work exchange programs. That could slam the door on 23,000 foreigners who come to the country temporarily to work. That includes many Israelis, who work at Jewish summer camps every year as counselors and other staff.
Both of these decisions are Jewish issues.
Jewish groups nationwide have expressed their dismay about the DACA decision. The ADL called it “one of a long list of actions and policies… that have hurt immigrants and their families.” The Reform movement leadership called it “morally misguided,” and the bipartisan California Legislative Jewish Caucus called it “inhumane” and “repulsive.”
How often must we remind ourselves that our Torah commands us to welcome the stranger? That is the moral imperative, and when you consider that the DACA recipients are not strangers, but essentially Americans who would be sent to “homes” they do not know, the cruelty of this decision hits home even harder. The Jewish community must continue opposing these politically motivated decisions that threaten our country’s moral foundation.