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Immigration Reform: Creating Prosperity While Holding True to Our Values

June 25, 2013 By:
Marc R. Stanley
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Our immigration system fails to meet the needs of American businesses and immigrant families, ultimately hindering America’s ability to compete in the global economy.

majority of Americans agree that establishing a pathway to permanent legal status for undocumented workers is right and just. For Jews, the Torah commands that “You shall have one standard for stranger and citizen alike” (Lev. 24:22). According to a recent survey, more than 70 percent of American Jews believe that welcoming the stranger and pursuing justice are important political values. Additionally, a majority of American Jews believe that increased immigration strengthens American society

After a long debate and heated public discourse, Congress finds itself in a position to enact real and positive change. Given this, the National Jewish Democratic Council strongly urges Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

For the undocumented, achieving legal status will be no easy task under the current proposal. The framework for allowing undocumented immigrants to achieve citizenship is expected to be a lengthy 13 year process. No amnesty is involved. Current language indicates that immigrants must pay fines, prove they are employed, pass a criminal background check and hold English language skills. This bill will uphold the belief that the right to come to America is something that is earned. For 11 million people who could seek legal status, this newfound ability will allow us to respect their personhood and our values by endowing them with a way to become fully part of the American experience. 

Those opposed to reform may assume that the large costs of providing services should deter the government from offering unauthorized immigrants legal status. However, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the current immigration reform proposal would reduce the federal budget deficit by $197 billion over ten years. While the costs would be about $262 billion over that time period, the revenue from income and payroll taxes would be $459 billion, according to the CBO’s estimates. In the following decade, the deficit would be reduced by an additional $700 billion. Immigration is contributing to the nation’s financial stability and economic growth. Those undocumented immigrants who pay for their share of government services and programs deserve a path to permanent legal status.

Immigration reform will also assist potential immigrants holding technical skills that are in demand. Keeping bright and entrepreneurial graduate students in the country will generate rewards for the rest of the economy. To encourage science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduate students to stay in the country, the law is expected to allow students with employment opportunities to stay in the country.
 
This change reinforces our desire to remain the global leader in innovation and research and development. Major American companies find it increasingly hard to find candidates with the advanced technical knowledge they need. When they seek to recruit a potential immigrant, they find that there are not enough visasMicrosoft, which requests more H-1B visas than any other company, has urged Congress to increase the quota. Coupling the diploma program with an increase in the H-1B technology visa will allow American businesses to thrive and act as a growth engine for the economy.

Through the history of the Diaspora, Jews have had a unique understanding of the hardship of living in different countries without full civil rights. Rabbis teach that “you shall not wrong or oppress the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not wrong with words, and you shall not oppress financially.” 

Major national Jewish organizations support the immigration reform effort including the American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, Bend the Arc, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, National Council of Jewish Women, Union for Reform Judaism and the Religious Action Center. We must strive towards a society in which all people are respected and treated with dignity and fairness. Denying immigrants any hope of improving their situation is inconsistent with our values.

Allowing deserving immigrants the chance to gain permanent status is imperative. With momentum in Congress and the support of the President, now is the time for change.

Marc R. Stanley serves as the National Jewish Democratic Council Chair.

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