The real-world implications of immigration reform were the focus Wednesday, June 5, as JUF's Jewish Community Relations Council delved into the many dimensions of the debate, ranging from its impact on the economy, public services and border security to the broad moral issues it raises.
The discussion, moderated by JCRC Chair David Sherman, was designed to highlight and educate about the complexities of the issue, and provide a forum for those directly affected.
Panelists included John Rowe, Chairman Emeritus of Chicago-based electric utility Exelon Corporation and Co-Chair of the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition Steering Committee; Fred Tsao, Policy Director at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights; Rob Paral, demography expert and principal at Rob Paral and Associates; and Alexis Cortes, a DREAM Act-eligible youth who came to the United States as a newborn.
"Progress requires us to celebrate our differences, to rise above our fears and to gamble on our common humanity," Rowe said. Tsao stressed that "immigration reform is economically smart, politically wise, and morally right." Paral encouraged the audience to learn the facts and not give credence to rumors.
The discussion also addressed issues of securing the country's borders, investing in additional enforcement and personnel, job availability and creation, and entitlements and public assistance.
DREAMer Cortes said he is "thankful because [he is] here," and said passage of immigration reform would allow him to live without constant fear of being separated from his family. It also would allow him to further pursue his education and focus on his future.
Rowe concluded by beseeching the crowd to "make America the beautiful, not the exclusive," and to realize that "immigration reform is an issue that affects everyone, all of us."
Stephanie Sklar is Director of Domestic Affairs for the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.