Judaism teaches that everyone is entitled to dignity and honor. One of our most cherished values is to welcome the stranger, especially those fleeing for their survival—because as Jews, we know what it's like to run from terror and violence, over and over again. Today it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the plight of immigrants to the United States. As of July 2019, 24 immigrants, including seven children, had died while being held in detention centers along our southern border. These asylum-seekers are dying due to inhumane conditions and substandard medical care, while a for-profit prison industry continues to explode, raking in billions in profits from their contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
No one should profit from the pain and suffering of others. ICE has turned a blind eye to the abusive conditions confronting thousands of immigrants who are being held in private jails without having been convicted of a crime. Although there were multiple serious health and safety infringements, ICE did not impose any penalties for these conditions and avoided enforcing inmate facility requirements. According to the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general, "ICE does not adequately hold detention facility contractors accountable for not meeting performance standards."
The good news is that organizations nationwide have come together to speak out and act in opposition to these atrocities. Bend the Arc is a proud member of the Defund Hate coalition led by Detention Watch Network, United We Dream, and other immigrant-led partners speaking up for immigrant rights. So far, the coalition has successfully blocked more than $5 billion in funding for border militarization and immigrant detention. The federal budget will be voted on soon and appropriations for ICE and CBP (Customs and Border Protection) will be made.
We are encouraging our elected officials to pass a budget that cuts the funding for agencies that separate families, put children in cages, and terrorize and kill immigrants. In the face of a harsh and punitive immigration policy, Jews are mobilizing to advocate for just and compassionate policies toward migrants.
What can you do? Locally, Bend the Arc: SLO is organizing a #DefundHate rally on Sunday, Oct. 6, from 1 to 3 p.m. in front of the San Luis Obispo County courthouse, 1050 Monterey St. This rally is one of more than 30 similar public events being held around the country during the week between the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to highlight the injustices of current immigration policies.
Speak up, speak out, let your elected officials know that human lives are important and every person needs to be treated with respect and dignity ... even as they try to enter our country to find a place where their lives are safe and where their children can thrive.
Susan Dressler, Barry Price, Sari Dworkin, Elie Axelroth
Bend the Arc SLO