On a frigid Chicago morning, nearly 200 people of faith -- many of them clergy -- gathered at Federal Plaza to stand up for Dreamers. Rabbis from across Chicagoland joined the multifaith coalition to support a legislative solution for these young adults brought to the United States as children without official immigration documents.
Brought together by Protected by Faith, the attendees urged Congress to facilitate a path to citizenship for the more than 800,000 people who had benefited from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program until its cancellation in September when President Trump called for legislators to take action rather than continue the program originally created through executive order.
"Holy Blessed One, assist and encourage us as we ensure that justice washes over and cleanses this land. May it embrace the native born and the immigrant, the poor, and the wealthy. May the unprotected stranger feel your protection, and may he know justice," Rabbi David Wolkenfeld of Anshe Sholom B'nai Israel Congregation in Lakeview offered in prayer near the beginning of the event. "May our voices and our warning be heard from Chicago to Washington."
As DACA recipients shared their stories and religious leaders offered prayers, other attendees held up signs saying "Let My People Stay," "We Were Strangers Once," "800,000 Dreamers Waiting." Clergy from the Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities also offered ways to act, including personal advocacy, supporting DACA application funds for those without resources, and creating opportunities for congregations to learn more.
"I am here today standing with immigrants and Dreamers because it is my duty, our duty, to create a world for all of our young people which is safe and secure," said Rabbi Megan GoldMarche of Silverstein Base Hillel, which serves young adults and college students. "I will stand-will you stand?"
Participants responded with loud chants of "I will stand" as Korean drummers banged traditional instruments.
The plight of the DACAmented has inspired a series of advocacy actions throughout the Jewish community.
JUF's Jewish Community Relations Council has been part of the Protected by Faith coalition since its inception in 2016. When news broke of DACA ending, the Jewish Community Relations Council issued a statement in support of Dreamers. In his speech at JUF's Annual Meeting, JUF President Steven B. Nasatir said that "providing permanent protections for [Dreamers] should in no way be a partisan issue."
"We urge our elected officials from both sides of the aisle to act quickly to make permanent the protections included under DACA," said David T. Brown, then-chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council when JUF released its policy position on Dreamers last fall. "As Jews, we are deeply attuned to those who have come to these shores as 'strangers' as we ourselves have done. It is our moral obligation to ensure America continues be the welcoming beacon for both refugees fleeing persecution and immigrants in search of a better life."
In addition, the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs has created a new immigration-related group of involved volunteers. And Reform Illinois, a project of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism with the goals of building a more compassionate and just Illinois, has recruited rabbis to advocate on behalf of Dreamers.
"This is a compelling issue for us because it connects so authentically with our own story of immigration and being a stranger," said Julie Webb, lead organizer of Reform Illinois. "We are passionate and deeply concerned because we can identify with the people who are experiencing special vulnerability of this moment."