Bend the Arc CEO Submits Testimony for Record of House Anti-Immigration Hearing

December 2, 2014

Today, Bend the Arc CEO Stosh Cotler submitted testimony for the record of a House Judiciary Committee hearing entitled “President Obama’s Executive Overreach on Immigration.” Organized by House Republican leaders unhappy with President Obama’s immigration accountability executive action, which will prevent millions of immigrant families from being torn apart, the hearing explored the President’s legal authority to take such an action. Writing in her testimony, Cotler noted that this action follows “in the footsteps of every president of every political party for the last 50 years, all of whom have acted within their legal authority on immigration,” and that these “common sense steps are a crucial start to fixing the problems plaguing our immigration system.” 

Testimony of Stosh Cotler
Chief Executive Office, Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice
Submitted to
The House Committee on the Judiciary
For the hearing record on:
“President Obama’s Executive Overreach on Immigration”
December 2, 2014

The time is right for comprehensive reform of our nation’s broken, unjust and immoral immigration system. When President Obama acted within his legal authority and issued his Immigration Accountability Executive Action just a few weeks ago, millions of families around our nation rejoiced, and we rejoiced with them. Because of the Administration’s bold action, nearly five million people—people who are already living next door to us in our neighborhoods, praying with us in our houses of worship, working with us in our offices, and caring for our family members—will step from the shadows.  We as a nation should greet them with open arms.

For years now, millions of Americans have called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Indeed, the organization I serve as CEO, Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, has helped lead the American Jewish community’s organizing and advocacy around this issue. We continue to support Congressional action that will finish the job of reforming to our nation’s immigration system to prevent families from being torn apart, reduce fear and suffering and strengthen our economy and our society.  We are eager to work with Congressional leaders to make that dream a reality.  But the millions of families at risk of being torn apart every day by our broken deportation policy and the individuals being exploited in our shadow economy needed help now, help which we are relieved the Administration provided.

By emphasizing better border control and reprioritizing deportations to focus on those who have committed actual crimes rather than families merely trying to create better lives and contribute to society, the Immigration Accountability Executive Action makes our nation safer and stronger.  Following in the footsteps of every president of every political party for the last 50 years, all of whom have acted within their legal authority on immigration, President Obama’s common sense steps are a crucial start to fixing the problems plaguing our immigration system. 

There are an estimated 11 million people in our country who contribute to our economy and strengthen the fabric of our communities, but are living without the rights and protections that the rest of us enjoy. Immigrants, especially those without documentation, are targeted by criminals, subject to exploitation by employers, unable to secure social services and afraid of the personal risks of demanding their basic civil rights. We need 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. Within the political and public discourse, the debates about appropriate border control and visa policies often overshadow the daily reality of these 11 million people who have insufficient legal protections and are all too often targeted by the same hate groups that perpetuate anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia and homophobia.

This fundamental injustice is especially personal for the American Jewish community whose own experience as immigrants taught us to value America’s enduring history as a welcoming and compassionate nation.  Many of our own families were able to enter America either as a result of the immigration policies of an earlier era or through other means. As such, our community has marched, raised our voices, met with our elected officials, and risked arrest, and we will continue to do so until we create a better America for all.