Jewish Groups and Synagogues Prepare to Shelter Immigrants During ICE Raids

Dozens of synagogues across the country have joined a network of houses to offer undocumented immigrants protection during expected U.S.-wide raids

Danielle Ziri
Danielle Ziri
New York
Immigration rights activists hand out pamphlets as communities braced for a reported wave of deportation raids across the United States, Miami, Florida, July 13, 2019.
Immigration rights activists hand out pamphlets as communities braced for a reported wave of deportation raids across the United States, Miami, Florida, July 13, 2019.Credit: MARCO BELLO/Reuters
Danielle Ziri
Danielle Ziri
New York

NEW YORK — The Jewish community in New York mobilized Sunday to help undocumented immigrants who are at risk of being rounded up for deportation, as families and others braced for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids that President Donald Trump said would begin that day.

The raids threaten some 2,000 undocumented immigrants in several major American cities, including Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami and New York.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 34Credit: Haaretz

In past weeks, immigrant communities have prepared themselves for the roundup, reporting widespread fear. According to CNN, “They've been stocking up on groceries and making plans to stay in their homes with the lights off and the blinds down.” They have also been counseling each other on what to do if ICE agents appear at their doors, posting signs within their homes as reminders.

>> Read more: Every Jew in America should actively protest Trump's concentration camps Inside the Jewish effort to stop ICE and Trump’s ‘concentration camps’

The New York Times reported Sunday that plans for the operation “were changed at the last minute because of news reports that had tipped off immigrant communities about what to expect,” with current and former Department of Homeland Security officials saying that “instead of a large simultaneous sweep, the authorities created a secondary plan for a smaller and more diffuse scale of apprehensions to roll out over roughly a week.”

The organization T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights joined the New Sanctuary Coalition, a network of houses of worship around the New York area that are offering a haven to undocumented immigrants during the raids.

T'ruah also organized and guided some 70 synagogues across the country in serving as places of refugee for those at risk as part of its Mikdash initiative.

The group, which includes more than 2,000 rabbis and cantors who want to “represent the moral voice of the Jewish community,” called the raids “cruel, immoral, and inhumane” in a statement on Thursday. “They will tear apart families and communities, and heighten the climate of fear felt by targeted populations,” the statement read. “The United States should be a welcoming country for those escaping dangerous situations in other countries or who have spent years here building new lives. The raids serve no purpose other than to jail more immigrants and rile up President Donald Trump’s base.”

Community members placing pamphlets as communities braced for a wave of deportation raids across the United States by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in Brooklyn, New York, July 14, 2019.Credit: \ EDUARDO MUNOZ/ REUTERS

According to T’ruah, “The Trump administration is acting like the leaders of the biblical Sodom, whose primary sin, according to rabbinic literature, was their abuse of foreigners and their xenophobia.”

It continued: “With these raids, our country is acting as another Sodom: A place where injustice masquerades as rule of law.”

In the New York area, 11 other synagogues are included alongside T’ruah in an online map of churches, mosques, synagogues and other houses of worship that offer a safe space for immigrants who need it.

The coalition asked member institutions to display an “S” symbol on their windows or doors as a sign indicating that undocumented people can come inside and be shielded from ICE in the short term.

Participating synagogues also include the LGBT Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in Midtown, as well as the Village Temple, East End Temple, the Upper West Side’s B’nai Jeshurun and others.

Over the past weeks, many in the Jewish community have decided to take action after stories and pictures were published of immigrants cramped in ICE detention facilities, sleeping on concrete floors with only emergency blankets.

In addition, a report released by the office of the inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security showed that ICE’s detention conditions are “unsafe and unhealthy,” pushing progressive organizations to get involved.

Jews all over the country have mobilized to protest the treatment of undocumented immigrants, taking part in the newly formed group Never Again Action, which has been gathering outside ICE facilities across the country.

One of the group’s organizers, Sophie Ellman-Golan, told Haaretz Sunday that the ICE raids are part of an “intentional effort by the federal government to terrorize immigrant communities.

“When we talk about ICE’s reign of terror, this is what we mean,” she said. “It is the job of every single person with a conscience to actively refuse to comply with ICE, and to stop the agency from rounding people up and imprisoning them in camps.

"We can’t just stand against these raids. We have to demand more: An end to detentions and deportations, and permanent protection for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in this country,” Ellman-Golan added, calling on the democratic leadership to “step up and defend the dignity and safety of all our communities.”

Many organizations and city officials in New York have also taken steps to inform people of their rights when facing ICE agents.

Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the most vocal critics of the Trump administration’s immigration policies, dedicated multiple posts on her Facebook page to explaining immigrants’ rights, in various languages. The posts encourage people affected by raids not to open their doors, to ask to see a warrant signed by a judge, and, if ICE agents don’t provide the necessary documents, to ask them to leave.

The New York Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs published similar information, offering resources to help them navigate the system.

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