Still Incomprehensible

It was flattering to discover that my esteemed colleague Reb Eli Stein devoted an entire column to criticizing my opinion piece on immigration. I greatly enjoyed reading his wonderful story about Harav Chaim Brisker, zt”l, and found the numerous points he raised both valid and interesting.

I truly regret that his chavrusa, a budding talmid chacham from France, was distressed by what I wrote: The last thing I want to do is hurt a fellow Yid, and I sincerely apologize.

However, I respectfully suggest that his assertion that “the easiest way to undermine whatever works about the current immigration system is by rewarding those who went around it” is based on a misreading of the facts.

Mr. Stein states that the president is “authorizing work permits for these illegal immigrants” and that “these permits may very well supplant ‘green card spots,’” making their recipients eligible for Medicare and Social Security benefits.

While part of the president’s plan calls for allowing illegal immigrants under 30 years of age, who came to America before they were age 16, to apply for a two-year work visa, it specifically rules out granting them green cards.

Obama’s plan is no more than a temporary reprieve, one that can — and is likely to be — ended by Congress once a new president takes office. It is not a path forward for permanent resident status or citizenship, and therefore, other than possibly causing some bureaucratic paperwork delays, it is unlikely to undermine or affect in any way the process of applying for and receiving a green card.

Furthermore, nothing works about the current system. The fact that this precious Yid’s father is forced to remain in England waiting for his number to be called so he can move to the U.S. permanently and reunite with his children and grandchildren only proves this fact.

When I reread my opinion and compared it to Mr. Stein’s reply, I was reminded of the time a fellow brought a manuscript of Torah thoughts to a Rav, asking for his haskamah.

The Rav carefully looked through the pages. “This sefer reminds me of a telephone book,” he finally said.

“Why?” the puzzled author asked.

“Every word is true, but has nothing to do with the next word …,” the Rav responded.

My opinion piece was about the concept of Jews being anti-immigration, and I was disappointed that Mr. Stein focused most of his rebuttal on whether Obama’s executive actions are legal.

America is a democracy that has an exceptionally strong system of checks and balances. The parameters of executive orders are pretty much uncharted legal territory, and while ultimately it will be up to the Supreme Court to decide whether Obama has overstepped his legal bounds, I don’t think it was egregious of him to try.

As Mr. Stein points out, I strongly criticized the GOP for shutting down Congress over Obamacare. Indeed, I argued that Speaker Boehner’s refusal to allow the full house to vote on a bill that would reopen the government was undemocratic — as was his refusal to let the house vote on an immigration bill. In fact, it was this refusal to allow the people’s representatives in Congress to fulfill their obligation by voting on a crucial piece of legislation that forced the president’s hand and essentially sponsored the controversial executive order.

Since many prominent Republicans actually support immigration reform, I do not see how the most recent election proves anything one way or the other. Opinion polls taken after Obama announced the executive order indicate that the American people strongly support Obama’s plan, though perhaps not the method of implementation.

A CNN poll indicates that only 26 percent of Americans think Obama’s plan for those immigrants goes too far, while 50 percent call it about right, and 22 percent say it doesn’t go far enough.

While most Americans think Obama should not have dealt with the issue of immigration via executive order, support for a GOP lawsuit over the issue is at just 38 percent. Sixty percent say Republicans should not challenge the move in court.

Far preferable to this executive order would be for Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration overhaul. Such a plan should include a path to citizenship for those who are here illegally, but they must pay fines and go to the back of the line. The primary focus should be on preventing illegal immigration by opening the gates of America to all honest, hardworking individuals seeking a better life for themselves, such as the father of Mr. Stein’s chavrusa.

The current immigration laws that keep so many of the huddled masses off these shores or force them to be here illegally is totally un-American. As I elaborated on in my previous column, this is a nation of immigrants. The notion of “I got here first, so now I am going to keep you out” is downright cruel.

Regardless of the specifics of Obama’s plan, I still find it incomprehensible for a Torah Jew to be anti-immigration.