Tag Archives: safe communities act

My Testimony for Today’s Safe Communities Act Hearing

JCRC will be testifying at the State House today in support of the Safe Communities Act, which would protect basic rights for immigrants by ensuring that police do not ask about immigration status and creating standards for law enforcement interactions with ICE. Recently, JCRC organized a letter from MA rabbis to the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, urging passage of the act.

Please read my testimony below (as prepared for the hearing) and urge your legislators to support this legislation:

"Good afternoon Chairman Moore, Chairman Naughton, and esteemed Committee members. My name is Jeremy Burton, and I am the Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, a network of 41 organizations representing greater Boston’s organized Jewish community.

This coming week the world will mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the beginning of the 75th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust during World War II. That era included a dark episode in our own nation’s history, when our failure to live up to our values ended in tragedy. 

In June 1939, the St. Louis sailed up and down our east coast, carrying 937 Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. Canada and the United States refused to allow them entry and they were turned back to Europe. While some found other avenues of escape, 254 of those men and women were eventually murdered by the Nazis.

We have not forgotten the tragedy that resulted from our people being turned back from US shores.

Like earlier immigrants, Jews came to this country seeking refuge and opportunity – as do immigrants arriving today to our great Commonwealth. Then and now, forces rise up to degrade the stranger as a threat, rather than as a neighbor. The story of the St. Louis is just one of the many instances where our nation has abandoned our principles: from the Chinese Exclusion Act, to the days of “Irish Need Not Apply”, to many other instances of stereotyping and vilification of the other.  But that is not the end of the story, because in our country, people of good conscience can ultimately prevail. The road is long, but we do not despair.

This is why, in January of 2017, in response to the executive orders on immigrants and refugees, some 40 Boston Jewish religious, philanthropic, civic and human service organizations united to publicly denounce these actions as unjust.  We stand together on the side of empathy and religious tolerance, and we urge compassion to those seeking safety, regardless of their faith or country of origin.

We urge our elected and appointed officials at all levels of government to do everything in their legal authority to protect our foreign-born neighbors throughout the Commonwealth.

We need to stop approaching these issues with the rhetoric of fear and demonization and with policies that treat human beings around the world as an enforcement problem. We believe that these issues must be approached as a humanitarian matter, with a commitment to the dignity and welfare of all peoples.

Together with our members and partners we have organized members of Jewish communities to build up an arsenal of accessible resources for families desperate to stay together who are targeted by our devolving immigration policies and laws. With our partners in the Unitarian and Episcopalian churches we have, through the Boston Immigration Justice Accompaniment Network, mobilized hundreds across many faith communities, to support our neighbors in detention right here in Massachusetts. We assist them in securing legal representation, raising money for bonds and offering home hospitality to individuals and families coming out of detention with nowhere else to go. Together, BIJAN members have, to date, bonded out 170 of our neighbors from ICE custody and accompanied people in detention to 850 court hearings.

That is why we at JCRC are here today to support the Safe Communities Act and it is why, over the course of the day, you will hear and receive testimony and messages of support from many of our members who support this legislation including the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action, the Jewish Labor Committee, Jewish Family Service of MetroWest, Jewish Vocational Service and the Boston Workers’ Circle. Together, we urge you to report the Safe Communities Act out with a favorable recommendation.

Thank you for your time and your consideration."

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

Keeping Families Together

Over the past few weeks, many of us gathered with our families and our community to celebrate Hanukkah and, together, bring more light into this dark time. As people across the Commonwealth, and the country, celebrate festivals in their own traditions, we’re mindful of the many families among us who do not have the option of being together this season.

Francisco Rodriguez has been in detention for almost half a year, separated from his wife and children. In that time, he was prevented from being with his wife for the birth of their child. Siham Byeh, detained with no warning by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) while her eight-year-old son was in school, remains in detention, with no end in sight. This past year, many in our community, and across MA, made calls to ICE, and attended rallies to support them – all to no avail -until yesterday.  We were relieved to hear the news that Francisco was released yesterday, as he awaits his asylum claim to be heard. But Siham, and so many others, remain in the clutches of our broken immigration system, separated from their loved ones.

These high stakes have led other undocumented immigrants to take drastic measures to stay together with their families, like the mother in Cambridge who has not left a Harvard Square church for seven months in order to stay here with her two young children, or like the man who sought Sanctuary in a church in Jamaica Plain so he could continue to be near his family.

Through our synagogue organizing work, JCRC has galvanized hundreds of our community members and supported the interfaith community in creating systems of support for these families. In so doing, we have encountered the layers of injustice that plague our immigration system and that wreak havoc on immigrant communities.

We have learned that in 2017, ICE has detained 37% more people than last year – putting millions of tax dollars toward punishing people like Francisco and Siham, who have built lives for their families here amidst difficult challenges. We have learned that undocumented detainees have no right to counsel, and that in fact, the majority of them have no legal representation. This greatly increases their chance of being deported and places them at risk of being returned to countries of origin, rife with violence. We have watched as people who fled horrific disasters in Haiti, Sudan, and Nicaragua years – and in some cases, decades – ago under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) have been deemed unworthy of protection by this administration (with decisions on Salvadorans and Hondurans also pending). These dynamics have thrust entire communities into whirlwinds of chaos and fear, with immigrants terrified to drive, go to work, or take their children to school.

As we marshal our resources to stand in solidarity with people like Francisco and Siyam, we’re acutely aware that many other immigrants are vulnerable to being targeted by ICE. To address that risk, we joined the coalition of organizations supporting the Safe Communities Act, which, if enacted, would prevent local law enforcement from being deputized to act as ICE agents. The civil liberties protected by this bill are now at risk, with mounting opposition being activated by groups spreading misinformation and sowing fear.

Join us in protecting our immigrant neighbors and contact your legislator to advocate for passage of the Safe Communities act.

As we near the end of a full year in this political reality, we must remind ourselves that this devaluing of human life does not reflect the best of Jewish or American values and must never become our norm. As our community statement declares, along with 42 Jewish communal organizations this past January, “we reject any effort to shut our nation’s doors on the most vulnerable. We recommit ourselves to the work of protecting and advancing the dignity of all human beings and to preventing suffering in this world.”

In this time of darkness, we as a community will continue to defend our democratic values, advocate for fairness and decency, and walk side by side with our immigrant neighbors.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy