Right now, at least 11 million men, women, and children are living in the United States with the real fear that they could be thrown into a detention center, deported, and torn from their families at any time. These are our neighbors, our friends, and our children's classmates. Even if we don't have a personal connection to any of the millions of undocumented people in America, they are people whose innate dignity deserves respect.
Today, upwards of 30,000 people are being held in detention centers across the country, many without any way to contact their families. Every day an average of 1,120 people are put on buses and discarded across the border. This is no way to treat people who have worked hard, paid their taxes, and contributed to the country like the rest of us — they are "different" only because they lack the right papers.
Our immigration system has crumbled to the point of cruelty. It is a crisis of governance and a crisis of our national conscience. Jews understand that while we may not be the ones on the buses today, we've been there before. We know that when one group is threatened, it puts everyone at risk.
One of Judaism's central teachings is to "welcome the stranger," to offer shelter to those in need and to accept those who we perceive to be different from us. Contrary to the individualistic, go-it-alone attitude that has prevented our country from making progress on many pressing social issues in recent years, Jews believe that our fates are bound up in one another — that we're all in this together. Put in a different way, we are responsible for each other, and an injustice against one hurts everybody. It also means we are responsible for correcting the injustices in our world.
That's where politics comes in. Politics, while often ugly, can also be the business of making our country a better and more equitable place.
Nearly 70 percent of Jews support comprehensive immigration reform, according to a survey released by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution in March 2013. We are optimistic, but we understand that progress does not just happen — it takes a lot of hard work.
That's why Bend the Arc has been organizing the Jewish community to fight alongside immigrants'-rights groups, civil-rights champions, and faith leaders to pressure the House of Representatives to bring immigration reform to a vote. It's why Jewish constituents held a meeting with Majority Leader Eric Cantor to discuss immigration reform, and why Bend the Arc and ten of the nation's leading Jewish social-justice organizations have circulated a petition urging Rep. Cantor to put immigration reform up for a vote on the House floor. It's why we've sent rabbis and Jewish citizens to meet with their members of Congress in their home districts. It's why our Rabbi-in-Residence was arrested alongside immigrants and members of Congress during a rally for immigration reform on the National Mall. And it's why hundreds of Jews fasted in their homes in solidarity with the activists who camped out in front of the Capitol and went without food for 22 days.