Testimony to House Judiciary Committee on Immigration Reform

Testimony of Alan van Capelle

Chief Executive Office

Bend the Arc Jewish Action

With Respect To

A Just and Equitable Immigration System

At a Hearing of the

House Judiciary Committee


“America’s Immigration System: Opportunities for Legal Immigration and Enforcement of Laws against Illegal Immigration.”

February 5, 2013

From the moment that Abram received the call from God “go forth from your homeland,” to the centuries of slavery in Egypt, to subsequent settlements in Babylonia, Europe, North Africa, America, and elsewhere, the Jewish people have been wanderers and immigrants throughout the world.  In response to this experience, Jewish law establishes protections for the ger—the sojourner whose precarious position in the community puts him or her at risk of exploitation. 

In America today, immigrants, especially those without documentation, similarly find themselves subject to exploitation by employers, unable to secure social services, and afraid of the personal risks of demanding basic rights.  Within the political and public discourse, the debate about appropriate border control and visa policies often overshadows the daily reality of the estimated 11 million Americans in waiting who are vital to the health of the US economy, but who enjoy insufficient legal protections and who are often targeted by the same hate groups that perpetuate anti-Semitism, racism, and homophobia.

We remember that many of our own families were able to enter America either as a result of the welcoming immigration policies of an earlier era, or through other means, and were able to move into the middle class largely as a result of the availability of living wage jobs and access to good public education.  We also acknowledge the labor of so many immigrant workers, who care for our children, clean our homes and workplaces, prepare our food, and otherwise play a crucial role in our lives, our economy, and our nation.

We at Bend the Arc Jewish Action believe that our immigration system is broken and needs repair. The tools essential for this repair are not barbed wire and drones, but rather justice and equality.

Justice calls out for an immigration system that includes a roadmap to citizenship for those aspiring citizens already living in America and visa policies that allow new immigrants to enter the United States legally. Justice requires that visa applications will be considered within a reasonable period of time, and that minimum wage laws and other worker protections will be enforced, regardless of the immigration status of the worker. Justice necessitates that we deal fairly with those who were brought here as children, empowering them to live out their dreams, the American dream, as our own ancestors were able to do.

And of course, justice demands that we treat our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters with the full equality under the law that they and their families deserve. U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents with a same-sex partner must have the same ability as any other American or legal resident to seek a visa on the basis of a permanent relationship and to bring their families together. America’s immigration policy must look forward to a future of justice and equality.

Alan van Capelle

Chief Executive Officer
Bend the Arc Jewish Action