The U.S. Senate blew it on gun control legislation; let’s work to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen with comprehensive immigration reform.
Both issues have garnered bipartisan support — not to mention overwhelming public backing — but that doesn’t always mean much when it comes to Washington politics. The Senate’s failure to heed the will of the American people — including many gun rights advocates — on even the most meager effort to expand background checks was nothing short of a shonda, or shameful act.
We must continue to press for new gun control measures even as we turn our attention to the pending legislation on immigration reform. For years, this was a bipartisan issue that in the more recent past got buried in the heat of electoral politics.
Now the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” in the Senate last week unveiled a version of legislation that takes a balanced approach to addressing the gross inadequacies of the current system. It includes a 10-year pathway to citizenship for undocumented residents that is conditional on a series of “triggers,” including ensuring the U.S.-Mexico border is properly secured, and keeping better track of immigrants who enter the United States on visas.
The suggestion that questions about the Boston marathon bombing suspect’s possible ties to Islamic extremists in Russia should stall immigration reform is wrong. Barring an absolute ban on all immigration, not even the most stringent laws could have flagged the suspects’ family, especially since the brothers were mere children at the time they arrived in this country.
Given our own immigrant history, we Jews have a special responsibility to press for fair and comprehensive immigration reform. Indeed, HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which once eased the entry for so many of our own relatives, continues to play a leading role on the issue even as the number of Jews needing its help dwindles.
Both gun control and immigration reform are high on the Jewish communal agenda, as they should be. The Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia is sponsoring a public workshop next week to help engage and educate more Jews on these issues and others.
“Jewish Values, Jewish Action: Putting Social Action to Work” will be held at Congregation Beth Or on April 29 at 6:30 p.m. (For more info and to register, go to: jewishphilly.org)
What else can we do? We must continue to press these issues with our legislators. As one of the most well-known maxims from Pirke Avot (Ethics of Our Fathers) says: “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.”