Central Conference of American Rabbis Dismayed by President Biden’s Border Restrictions

June 5, 2024

The Central Conference of American Rabbis is dismayed by President Biden’s Executive Order, closing America’s southern border under a wide range of conditions and suspending the rights of refugees and asylum seekers yearning for America’s protection from life-threatening oppression in their countries of origin.

This Executive Order comes only a week after the centennial of the Johnson-Reed Immigration Act of 1924, which prohibited already-restricted immigration from Asia and, for the first time in American history, imposed quotas on immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe. That law was explicitly motivated by eugenics, a movement that claimed the supposed innate inferiority of Asians and Southern and Eastern Europeans. The Office of the Historian of the United States explains: “In all of its parts, the most basic purpose of the 1924 Immigration Act was to preserve the ideal of U.S. homogeneity.”[1]

The 1924 Immigration Act meant millions of European Jews were denied entry to the U.S. Similar laws prohibited the entry of Jews to Canada. These laws had disastrous consequences for European Jews who tried to flee before and during the Holocaust. America prides itself on being “the land of the free,” a refuge for human beings facing persecution at the hands of repressive regimes around the world. President Biden’s Executive Order, like the 1924 law that preceded it, closes the door to people who are desperately in need of asylum. It comes at a time of increasing claims that echo earlier false rhetoric about immigrants—that they are disruptive to purported American homogeneity and a threat to our country. Even though President Biden does not share that claim, we are concerned about this Order, especially during a time of heightened tensions.

No commandment is more often repeated in Torah than “remember the stranger, for you were strangers in Mitzrayim (Egypt).” Jews have been strangers in America too, and therefore, Reform rabbis raise our collective voice in support and concern for refugees and asylum seekers attempting to enter the United States at its southern border.

In the strongest terms, the CCAR calls on President Biden to rescind this ill-conceived Executive Order. We further call on Congress to reform American immigration law more broadly—to increase avenues for legal immigration to this country, to provide an immediate path to citizenship for DACA beneficiaries, and to craft a humane solution to the daily terror faced by millions of longtime non-citizen residents of the United States who fear deportation because they lack the legal documentation that permits them to remain with their families in this country.

Rabbi Erica Asch, President
Rabbi Hara E. Person, Chief Executive
Central Conference of American Rabbis

[1]  https://history.state.gov/milestones/1921-1936/immigration-act