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Throwback Thursday: How Far we've come on Immigration Reform

The still-broken US immigration system continues to affect cities, towns, and communities across the country.

Despite the absence of progress by federal lawmakers – and perhaps in spite of this absence –debate and discussion about the chances for successful reform have not waned. The broad coalitions working to advance practicable solutions have made great strides politically. And in several important ways, like expanding in-state tuition eligibility and local protest against dangerous federal policies, they have improved the experience of living as an undocumented person in the US.

But pursuing a goal like immigration reform can be exhausting. For inspiration to forge ahead, it’s worth reflecting on the last two years and how far the country has come on immigration reform.

In 2012, a presidential candidate described his position on immigration reform as “self-deportation,” a strategy that would use policies and identification systems to make it impossible for undocumented immigrants in the US to find work and therefore drive them to leave the country. Only a year later, a bipartisan group of eight senators announced their intention to unveil a comprehensive immigration package, one that NCJW supported: S 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013.

This senate bill would provide a path to earned citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the US, as well as overhaul the visa, employment verification, and border security systems. Although not perfect, it was a good start to addressing a long-overlooked problem.


Time to #FixHobbyLobby – Because Our Health and Rights are No Laughing Matter


What do an arts and crafts store, a furniture manufacturer, and a fresh produce distributor have in common? While I wish this was the opening to a good joke, the sad reality is that each one is a private business that has been allowed to assert a religious objection to withhold birth control coverage from their workers as a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (Hobby Lobby). In its June 2014 decision, the Court held that certain private companies can use religion to discriminate against workers by denying them basic healthcare that is guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The consequence of this ruling is no joke, either. While Hobby Lobby originated from claims over a few specific forms of birth control, the Supreme Court’s ruling applied to all forms of contraception. What’s more is that they didn’t limit birth control as the only benefit a company could refuse to cover, meaning that denying workers birth control may just be the tip of the iceberg. Other health benefits – mental health care, immunizations, and HIV/AIDS treatment, among others – could be next. All of this doesn’t even approach what could happen if the wall of separation between religion and state continues to be torn down, as this 3-minute Coalition for Liberty and Justice video shows.


We Were Bold for Reproductive Justice: Rallying with the Be Bold Road Trip

by Maya Paley, NCJW LA Director of Legislative and Community Engagement

All Above All Road Trip LA

I spent this past Saturday at the first stop of the All Above All Be Bold Road Trip, a national campaign to speak out for reproductive justice and bring attention to the need to guarantee abortion coverage for low income women nationwide. NCJW is a partnering organization of All Above All, whose mission is to unite organizations and people to “build support for lifting the bans that deny abortion coverage.”


Restoring Civil Rights: A Jewish Tradition and Responsibility

By Sara Lewis, NCJW Legislative Intern

Throughout my elementary years of Sunday School, I participated in countless mitzvah (good deed) projects coordinated by my synagogue and various community youth groups. I have vivid memories of visiting nursing homes, preparing meals for the homeless, and sending letters to both American and Israeli soldiers. I remember learning about tzedaka (charity), tikkun olam (repair of the world), and social justice. Though I understood the surface meaning of those terms, I wasn’t able to connect Judaism to the social responsibility of helping others. It was not until I developed a passion for women’s rights as a high school student, and later emerged as a campus activist for social change in college that I began connecting cultural Judaism to my identity as a progressive-minded woman. As a Jewish social justice advocate, I recognize the values of equality, compassion, justice, and empowerment. Rather than understanding my Jewish values apart from my values as an intersectional feminist, I see them as an intertwined unity that drives my passion for universal equality and civil rights. Being able to lay out this system of personal values has enabled me to understand why Jews have historically been influential leaders of resistance movements against racism, sexism, religious oppression, homophobia, and other societal threats against human rights. I recently had the opportunity to learn about one monumental historical event where Jewish people assisted in an effort to effect positive social change, the Freedom Summer of 1964.


The Human Face of Deportations

by Judy Eigenfeld, NCJW Ohio SPA

An art project celebrating 
undocumented immigrants. 

I rallied for Alberto Ramos Gallegos. Why?

I spent two hours on the highway to attend a demonstration in support of an undocumented worker, Alberto, a husband, father of three, and an Ohioan for 24 years. The demonstration was held to highlight the second time Alberto was held in detention this year, then awaiting deportation as a result of a simple traffic stop.  His family and his community supporters gathered to protest outside of the Federal Building in Erie, PA and passersby lent their encouragement. Albert’s lawyers and community organizers were inside, arguing in front of a judge and federal agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.


Inside The Supreme Court: The Hobby Lobby Decision

by David Blumberg, NCJW Washington, DC Office, Legislative Intern

David Blumberg, Legislative Intern

With blankets, snacks, a water bottle, and a change of clothes surrounding me, I was prepared to pull an all-nighter.  I went over 24 hours without sleep to be ready for something very important.  No, there was no test in the morning, but rather I was in line to get into the Supreme Court on June 30, the last day of the term.  The Justices were to rule on Harris v. Quinn, a case involving non-member union fees, and the now infamous Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.


In My Home State, Texas, Voting Hurdles Hurt the Vulnerable

by Erin Brewer, NCJW Washington, DC Section, Legislative Intern

The state of Texas gives a very special birthday present to teenagers on the cusp of adulthood and civic participation—a mandatory trip to the department of public safety (DPS) to renew their driver license and obtain the ID necessary to vote. I turned 18 on a cold morning in November. Waking up at 6 am, I made my way to the DPS office in Plano, Texas where the line was already wrapped around the building before 7am.  I waited, bundled up in my high school lettermen jacket and a blanket, desperately clutching my cup of coffee while I waited for the building to open an hour later. By 9am I had made it inside, and by 10 I was headed home with a renewed driver license and a brand new voter registration card. In all, the errand lasted more than three hours.


Walking the Marble Halls: My Capitol Days

Wear comfortable shoes – that’s easily the best advice I got early on in my DC career. I’ve shared that advice with NCJW advocates nationwide – those marble halls can be hard on your feet! And believe me, we have collectively tread countless miles of marble halls over the years. Not just in the historic US Capitol – a building I have come to love and respect – but in stately capital buildings all over the country. Among my most vivid and cherished memories from my years with NCJW are those of tagging along with NCJW grassroots advocates as walked the marble (or linoleum) corridors, taking our issues to the seat of power in their states.

Texas Capitol DomeIn Tallahassee, Florida, the legislature sits in a towering building not far from the old capital building, now an historic landmark. What’s more impressive is that a noteworthy number of NCJW leaders – past SPAs (State Policy Advocates) and others – are now sitting in both chambers. Walking those halls behind the NCJW section advocates who go regularly to Tallahassee to meet with their elected representatives and listening to them make their case to NCJW members now in power is nothing less than a thrill! (Of course not every legislative visit there is as pleasant.)


Storytelling: The Best Kind of Advocacy

by Claire Lipschultz, NCJW Californa State Policy Advocate

Wearing our bright blue and green NCJW badges, we could be seen everywhere in the Sacramento Capitol, huddling outside legislators’  offices, giving testimony at hearings on our bills, and even attending the 40th annual legislator frog long distance jump contest at the Capitol’s steps. Sixty two NCJW advocates from across California came to Sacramento for NCJW Lobby Days in April 2014.  The overarching theme of the bills we chose was the growing inequities that arise from increasing poverty; particularly impacting women and children. We advocated in support of bills that focused on access to health care for undocumented persons, access to early childhood education, and access to financial assistance for newborns born into poor families.


It's Time to Shine A Light on Sex Trafficking

by Leslie Sternlieb, NCJW, Inc. board director and member of the New York Section

More than a year ago, I opened my eyes to the shadowy realm of sex trafficking when I attended the United Nations’ 57th Commission on the Status of Women, in New York. I found myself, among 6,000 women from around the world, grow increasingly alarmed during the panels and presentations that described the multiple forms of violence against women and girls, the theme for that year; chief among them was sex trafficking.


Like most people, I thought that sex trafficking happened “over there”—Southeast Asia, Africa, India, any undeveloped nation. And even though the scope is international—it’s a $32 billion industry, second only to the underground drug trade—this dark commerce happens across the United States, too. Traffickers typically prey on 12-14 year-old girls, no matter the race, national origin, socioeconomic standing or education. Anybody’s daughter or sister could be unexpectedly trapped, facing a life of daily indignities, violence and threats, with a limited chance for escape.

Sex trafficking robs victims of their freedom and their future. I have taken this as a call to action. And you can, too.

How will we do this? Just as I did: awareness, education, and, yes, action.


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