Title 42 has been used more than one million times to expel people at the U.S.-Mexico border who were only seeking safety and a better life. The Biden Administration announced that it will finally end the use of the program on May 23.
I am printing below a letter that I signed along with many other Jewish clergy across the country to President Biden thanking him for taking a far more compassionate position vis a vis those refugees seeking asylum in the United States.
This letter was co-authored by HIAS and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.
President Biden deserves far more support for the progressive policies he has championed since coming into office despite an even split in the Senate and a few votes margin for Democrats in the House. Biden is not getting that support mostly due to high inflation, gas and grocery prices over which he has very little control. His numbers have not risen despite his strong diplomatic skills over the past 6 weeks in rallying military and financial support for Ukraine, bringing NATO back together, calling out Putin for what he is (a war criminal), and representing the best of American foreign policy.
His low numbers seem to be stuck because, it seems to me, the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party continues to harp against him despite his many progressive accomplishments in his first-fifteen months in office. It’s time that Democrats (and Independents too) recognize how much is at stake in the coming mid-terms and come together in support of the President and Democrats in swing-districts in the House and purple states in the Senate. We Democrats cannot be our own worst enemies.
Jewish support for the President has also dipped from 80% at the time of the election to 63% today. Perhaps around our Seder tables we Jewish liberals can discuss this and affirm that liberal Jewish American values are at stake in this election and that we ought to be doing everything we can to lift these poll numbers so that the damage done in the mid-terms will be far less than we now fear.
Forgive my diversion here, but I wanted to get this off my chest before the holidays.
Hag Pesach Sameach.
Here is the letter I signed:
Dear President Biden:
We, the X undersigned Jewish clergy from across the country, welcome the announcement that Title 42 will no longer be used to deny entry to asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border. We are thrilled that this public health regulation, which has been used to expel tens of thousands of people who were doing nothing more than legally seeking protection and safety in the United States, will soon be a thing of the past. We thank your administration for finally ending the implementation of Title 42.
Our tradition teaches us that every person seeking asylum, just like everyone in the world, is infinitely precious and holy. And, as Jewish clergy in the United States, both the aspirations of our country and the teachings of our Torah call on us to love, welcome, and care for the most vulnerable among us.
From the very first day of Title 42’s implementation in 2020, public health experts have been adamant that it serves no protection against the spread of COVID-19, the specious claim that both the current and former administrations used to justify its use. And yet it continued with devastating human impact. It is estimated that since the start of your administration, there have been almost 10,000 kidnappings and cases of torture, rape and other violent attacks on people turned away.
As your administration works to rebuild the U.S. asylum system, we call on you to fulfill the promise that this country has made to generations of people who sought a new start, the commitment that you made in your campaign promises, to protect the basic right of each and every individual to seek safety in our country, and to treat people with fairness and compassion.
Furthermore, the right to seek safety cannot – and should never – be provided selectively. We have seen reports that Ukrainian asylum seekers have been able to enter the country while those from Central American countries, Haiti, and other countries have been denied. This cannot be allowed to continue. Treating Ukrainian refugees with respect and dignity is paramount; and, human rights and dignity must be available to all asylum seekers.
As our community nears the Passover holiday, we remember that our story is a refugee story, and that our community too traversed the desert fleeing oppression. Our American Jewish community has a deep historical connection to the refugee experience, and many generations of our families have sought safety in this country. We know what it looks like to be welcomed, and we know what it looks like to be turned away, including by misguided public health regulations.
Our communities are ready to welcome asylum seekers into our communities with warmth and generosity. We are eager to greet our new neighbors, to join a chorus of welcome from advocates across the border and across the country. We look forward to working with your Administration to build a just and humane asylum system that gives equal treatment to all human beings fleeing violence and persecution.