Migration has been a central element of the Jewish experience since biblical times when famine forced the Jewish people to flee Canaan and resettle in Egypt.  This experience has been mirrored in American-Jewish life with the immigration of Jews to the United States in search of religious freedom and economic opportunity.  As a reflection of our history, and based upon the biblical imperative to welcome the stranger, the American Jewish Community has long advocated for fair and just immigration and refugee policies.

Our American-Jewish values necessitate confronting difficult immigration challenges facing our country and our community.  At present, one of the most critical issues is the problem of undocumented migration to the United States.  Undocumented migration involves a set of interrelated issues including: the existence of millions of individuals living in the United States without legal status; the dangerous reality of unauthorized border crossings that has resulted in thousands of deaths and increasingly violent conditions in the border regions; the extensive backlogs for family immigration visas that result in prolonged and inhumane separation of families; and the United States’ pressing security needs that require the government to focus resources on individuals who pose grave dangers to the country.

Of particular concern is the United States government’s “Blockade Strategy,” begun in the early 1990’s to stem the tide of migrant workers crossing the border from Mexico to the United States.  While the goal of this strategy – stopping illegal entry – is legitimate, it has had an array of negative consequences.  The lure of a better quality of life in America drives tens of thousands of migrants each month to risk their lives on dangerous journeys to find work in America, now in more remote and perilous areas along the border.  During the past decade at least 2,500 have died while attempting to cross the border.  Furthermore, an atmosphere of vigilantism has developed in the border states and poses a threat to security and rule of law.

Despite stricter border controls, the number of migrants living without legal status has continued to grow.  Current estimates are that approximately eight to ten million undocumented migrants live in the United States.  Over half are from Mexico and approximately 20% are from Central American countries like El Salvador.  These migrants contribute to our economy, fill needed jobs and frequently pay taxes, all while remaining beyond our country’s social safety net.  They are vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers, and often face lengthy separations from their families because they cannot risk the dangerous border crossing back into Mexico.

Undocumented migration is also encouraged by the lengthy backlogs in the family immigration visa categories.  For example, spouses and children of legal permanent residents must wait at least 5 years for a visa; and siblings of United States citizens must wait from 10 to 22 years, depending on their country of nationality.  These backlogs have had particularly negative impacts in the Chinese, Filipino and Indian communities, among others and in some cases have kept families apart for generations.

While compelling humanitarian reasons exist to address the problem of undocumented migration, tackling this problem in a comprehensive manner also creates an extraordinary opportunity to enhance the overall security of the United States.  By offering migrants – both those already residing in the United States and those seeking admission – a legal process to obtain a desired benefit, the government can establish a security screening system to bar admission to terrorists and dangerous criminals while facilitating the immigration and acculturation of hard-working migrants.  This approach will allow immigration enforcement resources to be targeted on actual threats as part of the continued war on terrorism.

The effort to find an all-inclusive solution to the problems discussed above is often described as Comprehensive Immigration Reform.  A previous effort in 1986 to address these problems did not address the future needs of United States employers or provide any new means for foreign workers to work in the United States legally, and immigration authorities largely did not enforce many key provisions.  

The JCPA believes that:

The community relations field should:


Next Up:

International Family Planning

Take Action Donate


Elana Ayalon

May 23, 2024

Jewish Insider: Across political and religious spectrum, 61 Jewish groups urge House to take up antisemitism bill

May 22, 2024

Broad Coalition of 61 National Jewish Organizations Urge Swift Congressional Action on Countering Antisemitism Act


Ben Meyerson

May 14, 2024

JCPA Statement Marking Two Years Since the Buffalo Attack

May 12, 2024

Jewish Telegraphic Agency: Despite deep divides over Gaza, a Jewish leader seeks allies in defense of democracy

May 9, 2024

New Partnership Will Mobilize to Counter Rising Bigotry, Defend Democracy Spearheaded by Jewish Council for Public Affairs

May 9, 2024

JCPA Launches New Action Networks to Protect Democracy and Combat Hate

May 7, 2024

Jewish Council for Public Affairs Responds to President Biden’s Remarks at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Days of Remembrance Ceremony

April 22, 2024

The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle: Antisemitism is a threat to all