This Shabbat we will read Parashat Beshalach from the Book of Exodus in which the Israelites begin their journey out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. At the end of last week’s Torah portion Pharoah finally agrees to let the Israelites go after the God sends the 10th plague, the plague of the slaying of the first-born sons. We read last week’s portion with a sense of a relief that freedom has finally been granted. But this week we learn that the escaping enslavement is a journey and does not happen with a simple decree.
The complication begins when “Pharaoh and his servants had a change of heart toward the people, and they said, ‘What is this that we have done, that we have released Israel from serving us’ … and he chased after the children of Israel, as the children of Israel were marching out triumphantly” (Exodus 14:5-8). The Pharaoh and his officials chase after the Israelites. They catch up with them at the shores of the Red Sea. The Israelites are suddenly trapped. They are looking ahead at a Sea that they cannot cross with their oppressors rapidly approaching behind them.
When we read these words this Shabbat we will be marking the one-year anniversary of President Trump’s signing of his original Refugee Travel Ban. As we read about the Israelites trapped at the Red Sea, I will think about the refugees who are trying to get into this country. Particularly I think about the two Syrian families who we were assigned to JSS and we agreed to resettle in late 2016 and early 2017. They are both young families with young children (ages 2 to 8) who have been in a refugee camp in Jordan since 2012 and 2013. They both went through the lengthy process of gaining refugee status and made it to the final stage of being assigned a host city (Madison) in the United States.
Like the Israelites they had been given the decree that they were escaping to a new, safer home. They just were waiting for travel to be booked. The original travel ban combined the carefully planned bureaucratic slow-downs has meant these families continue to live in refugee camps. Their health and security clearances have now expired and so they must begin the process again and wait for the ban on Syrian refugees (and refugees from 10 other mostly majority-Muslim nations) to be lifted. They thought they were beginning their journey to freedom but now they are trapped.
More immigrants are at the risk of being trapped if the administration’s goal of reducing or eliminating ‘chain migration’, as they call it, comes to fruition. Chain migration is really family reunification. The administration is launching an attack to stop U.S. citizens from sponsoring their parents and siblings, and stop green-card holders from sponsoring their children over 18 years of age. If the administration succeeds families will be on two separate sides of the ocean with no way to reunite.
In the Torah’s narrative Moses, by the command of God, parts the Red Sea so that people can cross before their enemies reach them. They are saved and continue on their journey to freedom. We cannot depend on a miracle to free those who are waiting to come to escape war and to rejoin their families. We must make the miracle ourselves by speaking out against legislation that will be ban family reunification while continuing to show our opposition to the refugee ban. Click here to learn more ways to take action.
On this one-year anniversary of the Travel Ban let us together part the seas to allow the shores of our country to be open to those seeking safety once again.
Rabbi Renee Bauer
2. Oppose anti-family immigration policies and support a clean dream Act!
The Trump administration is engaged in an aggressive attack on family-based visas, seeking to cut immigration to the U.S. by over 50%, stop U.S. citizens from sponsoring their parents and siblings, and stop greencard holders from sponsoring their children over 18 years of age. Using dreamers as bargaining chips, the White House is demanding that drastic cuts to family immigration and the diversity visa program be included in any deal to provide Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients a path to permanent status and citizenship. Already, our immigration system is very narrow, only allowing U.S. citizens to sponsor their spouse, children, siblings, and parents, and only allowing greencard holders to sponsor their spouse and children. To deny individuals the ability to be reunited with their family members is to be anti-family and un-American.
Call (202) 224-3121 and urge your Members of Congress to reject anti-family proposals and to pass a clean Dream Act now!
Here’s a sample script: “My name is _________ and I’m a constituent of ____________.
I want Congress to pass a clean DREAM Act now. Will your boss commit to voting against any spending bills unless there is a solution for DACA recipients? I’m also calling in support of family-based visas and the diversity visa program. Family is the cornerstone of the community and the most fundamental institution in our society. I oppose lowering the number of immigrants welcomed into the country and any cuts to family-based visas or the diversity visa program . Will your boss commit to defending family-based visas and the diversity visa program?”
1. Call Congress: Call 202-224-3121 to be connected to to your Members of Congress.
2. Amplify on Social Media: Tweet at your officials and use the hashtags #CleanDreamAct #ValueOurFamilies and #NoFamilyBan. Click here for sample tweets and Facebook posts.