MA Rabbis Letter in Support of the Safe Communities Act

January 24th, 2020

Senator Michael O. Moore
Chairman, Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security
State House, Room 109-B
Boston, MA 02113

Representative Harold P. Naughton
Chairman, Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security
State House, Room 167
Boston, MA 02113

Honorable Chairs and Members of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary:

Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony in support of the Safe Communities Act (S.1401 and H.3573). We, the undersigned rabbis, urge your support of this vital legislation. This comprehensive bill would end state and local participation in federal immigration enforcement and ensure the wise use of our public resources.

Our communities have become increasingly concerned by the fear we are hearing from our immigrant neighbors and organizational partners. We have heard our neighbors, coworkers, and friends tell us that, amidst the heightened, hateful rhetoric and cruel federal policies, they are afraid to drive, to send their kids to school, to seek healthcare, to stay enrolled in necessary service programs. Even food pantries have seen a drop-off in clients. There is deep fear that any encounter with authorities, any service that requires a name and i.d., will lead to deportation by ICE.  Fear injures, it stunts growth and it isolates. As people of faith, as residents of Massachusetts, as Americans, and as humans, we are not in the business of seeding fear.

Many in our Jewish community have benefited from the blessings of life in America after our parents and grandparents immigrated here in the early 20th Century fleeing persecution. Whether they came with or without documentation, our families moved through this country freely, figuring out how to make lives for themselves and their children out of the ashes of persecution. In so doing, they contributed a great deal of labor, love and creativity to this country.

Immigrants of all stripes, from all countries, in all times, deserve the same chance. For at our core, we are all human beings. And at the very least, we all deserve to live free from fear. As Jews, the commandment we see more than any other in our holy texts is to love and care for the stranger, for wanderers who face immense challenges – to stand in solidarity and make it clear to our neighbors, our loved ones, that they are not alone.

And it is in that spirit we support S. 1401 and H.3573. Our tax dollars should in no way be put toward any kind of local law enforcement collaboration with federal immigration enforcement. We must take action to ensure that our local police and courts are not involved in civil deportations,; and we must take action to guarantee basic rights for immigrants who are detained in our jails or lockups

Policies of local/State and Federal enforcement collaboration deepen distrust between immigrant communities and law enforcement. When police and sheriffs become immigration agents, victims and witnesses of crime, including victims of domestic violence, do not come forward to cooperate with law enforcement. The New York Times reported a sharp downturn in reports of sexual assault and domestic violence among Latinos throughout the country since the presidential election, attributed to fears of deportation. It is unacceptable that people in imminent danger do not feel able to reach out for the support they need.

We support the recent adoption of the Boston Trust Act and other such local provisions which protect our communities, but a patchwork of inconsistent local ordinances and policies is not enough. The Safe Communities Act is based on tried and true community policing policies that cultivate community confidence in law enforcement. Massachusetts needs to send a powerful message to immigrant state residents that our state and local government serves and protects all law-abiding state residents, regardless of their immigration status. We all deserve a chance to contribute to this country and be free from fear.

I urge you to report this bill favorably out of committee for consideration by the full state legislature.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Neal Gold, President, Massachusetts Board of Rabbis
Rabbi Michael Rothbaum - Congregation Beth Elohim, Acton
Rabbi Elaine Zecher – Temple Israel, Boston

Rabbi Bernard Mehlman - Temple Israel, Boston
Rabbi Jen Gubitz - Temple Israel, Boston
Rabbi Suzie Jacobson - Temple Israel, Boston
Rabbi Ronne Friedman - Temple Israel, Boston
Rabbi Victor Reinstein - Nehar Shalom Community Synagogue, Boston
Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman – Boston
Rabbi Becky Silverstein – Boston
Rabbi Jim Morgan, Hebrew Senior Life, Boston
Rabbi Andrew Vogel - Temple Sinai, Brookline
Rabbi Daniel Schaeffer - Temple Ohabei Shalom, Brookline
Rabbi Shira Shazeer, Metrowest Jewish Day School, Framingham
Rabbi David Lerner – Temple Emunah, Lexington
Rabbi Julie Bressler – Temple Beth Shalom, Needham
Rabbi Shahar Colt – Congregation Dorshei Tzedek, Newton
Rabbi Daniel Berman - Temple Reyim, Newton
Rabbi Michael Shire, Phd. - Hebrew College, Newton
Rabbi Laura Abrasely - Temple Shalom, Newton
Rabbi Ora Weiss- Newton, MA
Rabbi Lev Friedman, Newton, MA
Rabbi Joseph B. Meszler - Temple Sinai, Sharon
Rabbi David Jaffe - Kirva Institute, Sharon
Rabbi Randy Kafka -Temple Kol Tikvah, Sharon
Rabbi Eliana Jacobowitz – Temple B’nai Brith, Somerville
Rabbi Seth Wax – Williamstown