PHOTO: (from left) HIAS Rabbi-in-Residence Rachel Grant Meyer; HIAS Border Fellow Nicolas Palazzo; Rabbi Elyse Wechterman, Executive Director RRA; Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld, Congregation Albert, Albuquerque, NM; Rabbi Devorah Marcus, Temple Emanu-El, San Diego, CA; Meggie Weiler; Smita Dazzo and Rebecca Kirzner.
HIAS convenes faith leaders and attorneys in Washington, DC, to deliver petition to members of Congress
A delegation of rabbis, attorneys, and advocates gathered in D.C. last week to deliver a petition signed by 1,400-plus Jewish clergy members to elected officials, calling on them to protect the essential legal right to seek asylum in the United States. Eleven Oregon rabbis were among those from 47 states and every movement of Judaism who signed the letter spearheaded by HIAS. It expresses outrage over the United States’ treatment of asylum seekers and calls for urgent moral leadership from elected officials.
The advocacy group visiting D.C. included national leaders as well as representatives from San Diego, El Paso, and Albuquerque. Each is providing support directly to asylum seekers in their local communities and shared their experiences with lawmakers. One of the participants, Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld, represents Congregation Albert in Albuquerque, which has helped provide food, clothing, medical care, housing and bus tickets to hundreds of asylum seekers who have been processed at the border and released from detention centers.
Rabbi Rosenfeld commented, “I was honored HIAS invited me to be a part of presenting the Jewish Clergy Letter to Congress. The officials we met, from both sides of the aisle, were sympathetic to the necessity of providing humane treatment and facilities to those seeking asylum in the United States. I believe we made a difference.”
In the coming weeks, Jewish clergy and advocates in more than 20 states will deliver the HIAS letter to their representatives over the course of 80 visits with the district offices of members of Congress.
As the asylum crisis intensifies, HIAS is also expanding its direct legal and social services for asylum seekers along the border and throughoutthe country. This year, the organization brought on three new legal fellows to represent individuals and families seeking asylum in the U.S. They include Nicolas Palazzo, who is partnering with the nonprofit organization Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso and joined the D.C. delegation. Palazzo regularly crosses into Mexico to provide legal guidance to asylum seekers affected by the Department of Homeland Security’s Migration Protection Protocols, also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy.
“The purpose of my visit was to dispel some of the myths and misinformation surrounding the border and the plight of migrants who are lawfully seeking their protected right of asylum,” Palazzo said.“The right of asylum and safe refuge is under assault. Now, more than ever, it is absolutely critical that we bring an informed moral and legal perspective to the conversation on policy. My hope is that more clarity about what’s happening in the detention centers, in immigration courts, and in shelters across the southern border will guide our legislators and policymakers toward a more humane immigration policy.”
This month, HIAS hired a national pro bono technical advisor to support its network of social service agencies serving asylum seekers and launched a joint project with KIND (Kids in Need of Defense), which has represented thousands of children in immigration court, to provide representation to forcibly separated families. In September, HIAS will host its sixth and seventhpro bono attorney delegations to San Diego and El Paso.
HIAS views the National Jewish Clergy Letter as a powerful expression from the Jewish community. “At this moment when the United States is abandoning its legacy as a nation of immigrants and refugees by rescinding its commitment to provide asylum to those fleeing violence and persecution, more than 1,400 Jewish clergy around the country heeded the urgent call to raise our voices to say that this is a moral disgrace for all Americans and, in particular, for Jewish Americans who know well the danger of turning away those in need of a safe place to call home,” said Rabbi Rachel Grant Meyer, HIAS’ Rabbi-in-Residence. “We pray that our elected officials will take seriously the tens of thousands of American Jews we represent and step up to ensure that our country continues to have a fair, humane, and expeditious asylum process.”
The full text of HIAS’ National Jewish Clergy Letter in Support of Asylum Seekers is here.
HIAS is the global Jewish nonprofit that protects refugees—including women and children, and ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities—whose lives are in danger for being who they are. Guided by our values and history, HIAS helps refugees rebuild their lives in safety and advocates to ensure that all displaced people are treated with dignity. More info at @HIASrefugees, Facebook and hias.org.