June 6, 2018
An immigration policy that separates asylum-seeking parents from their children is drawing criticism from immigration advocates and leaders within the Jewish community, both nationally and here in the Valley.
“There are international laws mandating the acceptance of refugees and asylum seekers,” said Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, president of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Phoenix, who stressed that he was speaking personally and not in his official capacity. “This U.S. attorney general’s May 7 announcement cancels any United States participation in these internationally agreed upon rules.
“Taking children from their parents reminds me of the ‘left’ or ‘right’ decisions against us made by the Nazis. Assisting those who are fleeing persecution and suffering should charge our Jewish communities’ sensibilities and response. After all, not so many years ago we were the ‘those people’ fleeing terror and persecution.”
On May 7, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke in Scottsdale about his “zero-tolerance” policy toward border enforcement, unveiling plans to prosecute all undocumented border crossers. He also confirmed that undocumented families caught crossing the border would be separated.
The move came after U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported that apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border had more than tripled since April 2017.
“If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law,” Sessions said. “If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.”
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, a hub of 16 national Jewish agencies and more than 125 local Jewish Community Relations Councils, strongly condemned the policy as “cruel and inhumane.” The group argued that children are particularly likely to suffer emotionally and psychologically due to separation from their parents. The group also maintains that the policy will add to the suffering of families, many of whom are fleeing violence in their home countries.