Editorials are posted and archived
on JN Online:
Seeking The American Haven
ire,4306er'—' 20 CW, ,1,11.4 et,vgegFre,,N.7g--D.rs.com
ROW 17411 YOU ,4011a1 IT,
IVEY PO SEEM TO SE
5FR111646 OP ALL OVER-
resident Bush is doing the right thing in set-
ting the issue of American immigration poli-
cy onto the front burner for this session of
Congress. But his proposed approach tips
far too much toward employers and away from human-
itarian concerns. And, of particular concern to Jewish
America, it fails to address the related problem of how
the U.S. should deal with regional and global refugee
The world has changed dramatically since 1986
when Congress last took on immigration issues. The
overriding issue for America then — as now — was
what to do with a flood of people who had entered the
country illegally and found employers eager to keep
them in low-paying jobs. Then, most of the
illegals were farm hands in the Southwest;
now they include millions working in places
ranging from giant stores like Wal-Mart to
small plants. The 1986 law essentially provided
amnesty for the workers and, because its employer-
sanction provisions were never enforced, amnesty for
the employers also.
The new Bush initiative seems likely to repeat that
experience. It would concentrate power in the hands of
the employers who must sponsor the workers and could
get them kicked back out of the country should the
economic need for them diminish. The plan does not
provide real incentives and opportunities for the immi-
grants to move toward frill citizenship.
By devising a more humane plan, one that recognizes
that immigrants are not just fodder for workplace needs
but individuals deserving of dignity and entitled to
appropriate legal protections, Congress could reassert
the country's historic role as a place of opportunity. As
Jews whose ancestors were second-class citizens in
Egypt, Babylon and Spain, we
should be aware of the need for
an effective shield against
exploitation. We remember
what happened to hundreds of
Jews aboard the St. Louis when
America refused them entry; we
also remember how Israel
opened its doors to the
Vietnamese boat people when
no one else would take them in.
A balanced plan for immi-
grants would contribute to the
necessary work of repairing
America's image as an
economic bully, a
reputation that is par-
our relations with South and Central American nations.
Obviously, the mechanisms for regulating the flow of
immigrants must address the real worries of 21st centu-
ry terrorism. But with borders as porous as ours, terror-
ists aren't going to pose as farm workers from Mexico
and present themselves for official inspection.
As Washington tries to deal with making a fairer and
more effective program for illegal immigrants, it should
also take up the problems of refugees fleeing from reli-
gious and ethnic persecution. One step in the right
direction was last week's passage of the Specter
Amendment, which makes it easier for Jews and other
religious minorities from the former Soviet Union and
Iran to find refuge here.
That refugee program, intended to open the doors to
140,000 people over the last year, brought in a third of
that number, apparently because understaffed and
pro-Israel students to speak and to be heard.
it helps pro-Israel students find their inner
Together, we can be such a powerful force;
voices and share their stories. As I began what
we can tell our members of Congress that their
'would be an incredible first semester at
college-age constituents are pro-Israel. We can
Michigan State University, I was engaged by
help fellow students understand why Israel is a
the work of AIPAC and realized my power to
critical partner for the U.S. in the Middle East.
I witnessed this power when 250 students
Armed only with leadership skills and fac-
from more than 80 campuses across the coun-
tual knowledge, I, along with numerous
try came to the AIPAC-Schusterman Advocacy
other students, began a movement to advo-
BLOOM Institute's Winter Saban Political Leadership
cate for Israel on our campus. We have made
Community Training Seminar to learn and to inspire. Their
great strides, registering nearly 350 pro-Israel
Perspective activism, strength and passion genuinely warms
students to vote, engaging both Jewish and
my heart and sparks my determination.
non-Jewish students alike, hosting Israel advo-
Talmudic wisdom proclaims that over every blade of
cacy trainers and inviting key legislators to discuss the
grass an angel whispers ... grow! grow! grow! AIPAC
importance of the U.S.- Israel relationship.
has helped to plant seedlings that will continue to
Bringing awareness to our student body is essential
develop into the voices that will shape our nation.
in achieving our goals and initiatives. With each task
These whispers of inspiration have helped me to
we tackle and every obstacle we overcome, it becomes
release my inner voice. I am eager to return to campus,
apparent just how effective our work has been and the
to share with my peers the power of activism, the effec-
important role we play in this movement.
tiveness of inspiration and the strength in their voices.
Unfortunately, our world is filled with apathetic
Now, I have answer an as to why I am an advocate
individuals, but AIPAC has inspired me to speak out
for Israel — to ensure that this generation and those
as an activist. Israel is far too important an issue to sit
to follow will always know Israel as their homeland.
on the sidelines and remain silent. Everyone has an
I am ready to speak up ... for you, for me and for
inner voice. Some may be buried; others may be closer
to the surface. Yet it is now my goal to encourage other
inter vacation: finals are over, the pres-
sure is off and it is time to catch up on
some much-needed rest and relaxation.
There I was, floating on a cruise ship
somewhere in the Caribbean, but my mind, my heart
and my soul was somewhere far away.
When I made the decision to leave my family vaca-
tion early and fly to Washington to take part in an
American Israel Public Affairs Committee-sponsored
leadership training program, my friends called me
crazy. Two weeks ago, I could have never given a logi-
cal explanation to these skeptics. I have always been
passionate about Israel, but now my passion has been
channeled into action. AIPAC has changed my life. It's
a powerful and seemingly overzealous statement, but it
is the truth.
College campuses are often referred to as hotbeds for
anti-Israel activity. AIPAC does unprecedented work as
Jennifer Bloom of West Bloomfield is a freshman at
Michigan State Universi t y. She is studying political theory
and international relations. She serves as the SpartyPAC
liaison, the pro-Israel student organization at MSU
under-experienced offices of the Department of
Homeland Security could not handle all the applica-
tions effectively. The Specter Amendment provides
additional financing and authority to ease the way for
about 500 Jewish and Christian families who have been
held in a legal limbo in Vienna.
But that amendment does nothing to resolve how we
should handle immigration visas for spouses and chil-
dren of legal permanent residents or what government
benefits like grants for college education should be
available to those legal families.
The terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001, forces us to
think freshly about America's role and performance as
the world's greatest economic, cultural and military
power. Developing a coherent and humane approach to
keeping open the door of opportunity will send the
right message, not just to would-be immigrants but also
to a world that needs to know we still have a heart.