U.S. Jewish Groups Blast Trump's Decision to Scrap 'Dreamers' Program as 'Cruel, Unnecessary'

'We are a nation of immigrants,' ADL chief says after Trump and Sessions announce end to Obama's DREAM Act

Demonstrators protest in front of the White House after the Trump administration scrapped the DACA program, Washington, September 5, 2017.
Demonstrators protest in front of the White House after the Trump administration scrapped the DACA program, Washington, September 5, 2017. KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS

WASHINGTON - Leading Jewish American organizations criticized the Trump administration's decision on Tuesday to end the immigration policy known as DACA, and said they would work to challenge the decision and put pressure on Congress to keep the program in place.

The Anti-Defamation League said in a statement issued shortly after the administration announced its decision, that U.S. President Donald Trump's action is "cruel, unnecessary and inconsistent with the core values of our country."

The organization also said it supports "an immigration policy that is comprehensive, protects our security, reunites families and improves our economy while honoring our values as a nation of immigrants. We support a bipartisan effort to protect these young immigrants through legislative action and renew our call on Congress to act now."

Jonathan Greenblatt, the organization's CEO, said that "we are a nation of immigrants. The lives of hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who were brought to this country as children now hang in the balance. They are some of our best and brightest. They are doctors, lawyers, teachers, and members of the military. They are our neighbors, our friends, and members of our communities. They came out of the shadows, relying on a promise from the federal government that they would be protected. Now they are in danger."

Mark Hetfield, the head of HIAS, a Jewish nongovernmental organization that works to help immigrants and refugees, said in response that America “must restore basic fairness and morality to the way we treat immigrants in this country, and there is no better place to start than with these young Americans.

"Like generations of immigrants before, including millions of Jewish parents and grandparents, the parents of these kids have made enormous sacrifices, not for themselves, but in the hope that their children would have a chance at a real future. The president has likely put the American dream out of reach for countless people today,” Hetfield said.

The Jewish Reform Movement also attacked the decision on Tuesday. In a statement released by the movement's Religious Action Center, Rabbi Jonah Pesner said that "as Jews, our people have known the experience of being ‘strangers in strange lands.’ Our past reminds us of the struggles faced by so many immigrants today. Because of this history, Judaism demands that we welcome the stranger and compels us to work for a just immigration system."

The statement also said that "It is imperative that Congress step up in support of these young people who grew up in the United States and who want to give back to the only country they know as home. We call on Congress to protect DACA recipients from deportation by immediately passing a clean bipartisan Dream Act of 2017 – and on the president to support it.”

T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights said it was "outraged" about the decision. "We understand the cruelty of forcing Dreamers back to the countries where they were born, but in many cases have never lived, and where — in some cases — their lives will be in danger," the group said in a statement.

It added that the organization launched a Jewish sanctuary movement this year in order to "protect immigrants threatened with deportation," which nearly 60 synagogues across the United States have joined. The network is "committed to activate to protect Dreamers if Congress does not act to protect DACA, and if [the U.S. Immigratin and Customs Enforcement] begins targeting Dreamers," said the statement.

"The Jewish community has a long history of active engagement in supporting new immigrants and developing our nation’s immigration policy," it said. "We believe that Congress must enact a permanent solution and we call on lawmakers to act immediately to protect immigrant youth by passing ... bipartisan legislation that would replace fear and uncertainty with permanent protection.

"Our government made a promise to protect these young people who were brought to this country as children, who know no other country but the United States, and who seek only to live and work without fear," said David Bernstein, the organization's president and CEO. "It is both our civic and moral duty to uphold that promise."

The Trump administration outlined on Tuesday how it will dismantle the program, which shielded from deportation undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and allowed them to work in the country.

The winding-down of the program was announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said that Congress would have six months to decide on an alternative.

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke issued a memo that rescinded a 2012 DHS memo that established the program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

The DHS will provide a limited window for some DACA recipients whose work permits expire before March 5, 2018 to apply to renew those permits. Such individuals must apply for renewal before October 5, administration officials said in a briefing call with reporters.

Former DACA recipients whose work permits expire will be considered to be in the United States without permission and are eligible for removal, but they will be a low priority for immigration enforcement, the officials said.