The Dream Act is being introduced in Congress. All Jews who immigrated to the United States – that’s all of us! – need to support it if we have any gratitude to God for allowing us and those who came before us enter this country, or other countries of refuge. The Dream Act would enable tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants who entered this country as children and who are either serving in the U.S. Army or going to college to gain legal residency and eventually citizenship. The Dream Act failed in its first round, mostly because Republicans in congress demanded that the government deal with securing the boarder before certifying any formerly illegal immigrants. But this issue has to be a priority for America and for the Jewish Community. It is a moral matter for Americans, who know that our country is the right place for these people who have lived almost their whole lives here, and who have achieved the American dream – of serving our country and getting an education to enable our country to continue its leadership of the Free World.
Just over a week after we commemorated the Holocaust, where millions of our people died because England and the United States refused entry to our people, and just a day after Israel independence day, our beloved Jewish state which was established to Never Again allow Jews to be refused entry to escape persecution. Yes, these undocumented children are not refugees; their parents came illegally to our country and brought them in illegally. But our mothers and fathers came to America for a better life as well, and how can we not be sympathetic to people desperately trying to enter our country to better their lives? Yes, we did not enter illegally, probably. But these children are innocent of any crime as well. They were brought in by their parents or others and had no choice. They are not responsible for being here illegally. And now they are part of the United States; they have adopted the best values and visions of our country. If we Jews do not have sympathy for “geirim” – for strangers – if we do not have sympathy for children, who will? Didn’t the British at least let in the children to England through the Kinder Transports? That was in 1939. If Britain of the thirties could take pity on Jewish children, cannot we Jews take pity on Mexican children who only know life in America and are doing their best to be good Americans.
Undoubtedly there were those in Britain who said that if you let in Jewish children it would cause all sorts of social ills. Thank God the voices of morality overcame those foolish utilitarians. Today there may be voices against the Dream Act: American Jews of all political persuasions need to step in and say, Even though this act will only help our country, it is first and foremost a moral act, and we who understand what it means to go from servitude to freedom, know what it means to go from the poverty of Mexico or so many other countries to the freedom of the United States of America.
Because our parents and grandparents got lucky and worked hard to get into this country, we Jews of America are in a position to influence American policy. Let us not show a lack of gratitude to our predecessors or to God for giving us a position of privilege to be American citizens. Thank God for America, and thank God their are children who grow up, unrecognized and undocumented, who love our country and are willing to serve it with their lives and with their minds. Let us learn from the tragedy of a world so panicked that it did not let Jews into the bastion of freedom – the USA – nor into our own homeland – Palestine at the time. Let us commit that it never happen again, not just to us, who suffered so egregiously from that panic, but to any people, and, especially, to the innocent children of this world.
Rabbi Asher Lopatin