Alexa and Evan are back with #SocialJusticeWeekly! This time, they’re talking about a new immigrant visa rule from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), giving some background, arguments on both sides, and what the Reform Jewish Movement has to say. Watch the video here, read the transcript below, and take action!
Evan Traylor: Hello!
Alexa Broida: Hello!
ET: We’re back!
AB: We are back, and we’re in the same place!
AB: Where are we?
ET: We are at the URJ Kutz Camp in Warwick, New York.
AB: In Warwick, New York. We’re spending a week with the other staff members, our fellow employees, of the URJ Youth Department, having major conversations about the direction that we want the youth team to go in, and getting fired up and ready to go about…
ET: Fired up, and ready to go.
AB: Fired up and ready to go! So we were talking, and realized that there was a thing that kind of missed our radar over the last few weeks. A news item that came out that’s actually a pretty big deal, that really kind of got overshadowed by the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination stuff.
ET: Yeah, so we’ll post this in the comments, but the Reform Movement put out a statement about this new rule coming from the Department of Homeland Security. It doesn’t need to go through Congress –
ET: – because it’s just a proposed rule that would, essentially, when people who are not citizens, who are either in this country already, or are not in this country already –
AB: Legally, legally, documented.
ET: – legally documented, when they are applying, or if they are applying for citizenship, that the government would take into account whether or not they have used public benefits in the past, so SNAP, Medicaid, all of those pieces. Or, if they are coming from outside of the country and are applying, they would take into account whether or not they have the potential to use –
ET: We’re laughing because, yeah.
AB: It’s ridiculous.
AB: Also, what does that mean, the potential? Because we all know stories, right, that the general narrative of the people who are on food stamps are the ones who are lazy, and they come from a history of like, no. We know this can happen to anybody, this can happen to anybody.
AB: There’s actually an amazing book called Most Unlikely to Succeed, which is a phenomenal book that I heard about from a speaker at a NFTY STR, Southern Tropical Region, event –
ET: Shout out, nice.
AB: – and it’s his story, basically, about how he sort of went from basically being a wealthy person to losing everything to circling back again. At any rate, I digress. The point is, I mean, potential, potential schmential.
ET: Right, right. But –
AB: That’s the most articulate thing I’ve ever said.
ET: What we do want to highlight though, with this rule, because it doesn’t have to go through Congress… with every rule of this kind? Maybe?
ET: We need to do a little research on that. But there’s a public comment period.
AB: A public comment period!
ET: Yes. So for everyone who says, I’ve been calling my representatives and senators, and their mailboxes are full, and all that stuff, public comment period where we can really raise our voice and say, this is not, no.
AB: And anyone of all ages can raise their voice about this.
AB: There’s an online forum, it’s going to go live tomorrow, October 11th. This rule will be live, and it basically gives everybody the opportunity to go on the website and comment how you feel about it. And how do we feel about it?
ET: No, no.
Both: No, no.
AB: Two thumbs down. Four thumbs down. I need your two thumbs to make four thumbs.
ET: There we go. No.
AB: We don’t like it. No. And why don’t we like it?
ET: It just… as I think about, right, bringing people, or people who have come to this country or want to come to this country, and are going through the process to become a citizen, which I think that the Trump administration would say, maybe, that they should become citizens, or want to become citizens.
AB: Right, we want people to become citizens, to do it the right way.
ET: Exactly, but now we are creating these additional barriers, and we are… I was reading an article on NPR, we’ll also post it, really fascinating but talking about this rule. This woman was talking about her parents who immigrated here, and how when her mom was pregnant with her they were on food stamps, because that’s what needed to happen, and through this rule, her mom would have to choose whether or not going on food stamps would harm her ability to eventually become a citizen.
AB: Right. Right.
AB: Which is kind of ridiculous, right? So it’s important to do a quick history lesson, which is that in 1996, Congress passed the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. A big part of the public conversation around that Welfare Reform Act was whether or not welfare services, public assistance benefits, and public services should be available to non-citizens. On the one hand, people said, no it shouldn’t, because we don’t want extra people to be a burden. This country has enough of a hard time taking care of its citizens, naturally born citizens, we don’t want to add to that burden. And on the other side, people said, yeah, but people come here, and they come here legally, and they’re paying taxes, they’re eligible to be drafted, if we want them to be Americans then we’re going to treat them as Americans. Ultimately, that side was the one that prevailed, and in the 1996 Welfare Reform Act it was decided that it was in fact legal for immigrants and non-citizens to be eligible for public assistance. And so, it is legal now. I just want to name that, that’s not the controversial part, and nobody is talking about making it illegal, just to be very, very clear. What we’re adding is an additional barrier to basically say this legal thing, if you take advantage of your legal right to do this thing, we can penalize you later on.
ET: Exactly, exactly.
AB: Kind of messed up. We actually found a common quote in Judaism, in Leviticus, that people quote all the time to say that you were strangers in a strange land, you were strangers in the land of Egypt, and in fact, the longer quote is even more interesting and relevant than just that little tidbit.
ET: Yeah. Especially in this, so this is Exodus… Exodus?
ET: Leviticus. There we go. Leviticus 19. “So when strangers sojourn with you in your land, you shall not do them wrong. The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you.”
AB: As the natives among you!
ET: Exactly. “And you shall love them as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Just like that.
AB: Judaism said so.
ET: We’re going to post the link to the comment, which will open on October 11th, and let’s flood it. It doesn’t matter if you’re 18, can vote, can’t vote, anything.
AB: Just doesn’t matter, it’s a public comment, so we want to go on the record making our voice heard. We’ll also post some resources. The Religious Action Center put out a statement a few weeks ago, and the Reform Jewish Movement officially opposes this proposed rule, and there are plenty of ways to make your voice heard in this, so let’s take it and run with it.
ET: All right. All right. See ya, everybody!