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Madeline Shepherd's picture

A few weeks ago, almost 400 women from across the country headed to Capitol Hill as part of their participation in the National Council of Jewish Women’s (NCJW) policy conference. And in more than 150 visits, comprehensive immigration reform was one of the key issues discussed with congressional offices.

Over the course of the weekend, we had debated, discussed, and shared stories about several policy topics, including immigration and the need for reform, and talked extensively about immigration. From California to Minnesota, Florida to Ohio, women came to Washington and shared their personal experience with stories about immigration.

One woman spoke about her own experience as an immigrant to the US from South Africa during the apartheid era, another shared how her local NCJW group got involved teaching English to immigrants in their community while still others recounted stories about their immigrant parents or grandparents. All of them, their stories, reflected the underlying Jewish value of welcoming the stranger, a notion emphasized throughout the Torah, which reminds us that we were once strangers too.

As Jews, many of our families have recent histories of immigration. We know what it means to settle in a new country to pursue a better life. A path to citizenship, family unity, and access to support like health and nutrition programs are not just policies that affect other people; they are woven into the narratives passed down by our grandparents and parents.

As women, we are concerned by the fact that immigrant women are often left out of the conversation. Often immigrant women work as domestics and are not eligible for employment visas. They may rely on an abusive partner and fear deportation if they go to the police. Living in the shadows is bad enough, but immigrant women are at a further disadvantage as they fall through the cracks in our current system.

For these reasons, immigration reform is not just a policy issue – it is deeply personal. We know undocumented immigrants and other aspiring Americans aren’t just numbers on a page, but represent families in our communities, children in our schools, and workers contributing to our economy. That’s why we support a path to citizenship that is inclusive and fair; access to health, nutrition, and economic supports for newly legal residents; increased visas to reduce backlogs; and strong policy supports to reunite families and keep family members together.

To do otherwise is to betray our own individual moral, ethical, and religious values as well as our proud national principles of equality for all.

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