Immigration Policy Center

Overview and Guiding Principles:

Tradition teaches us to welcome the stranger living in our midst for we were once strangers in the land of Egypt. We remember that throughout history Jews have often been refugees, forced to constantly migrate and resettle. We also recall we have often been surrounded by a hostile majority, with few or no rights, living in fear. Having had a history with no recourse in the law or society, we cannot stand idly by and be indifferent to the plights of immigrants and refugees. It is the responsibility of the Jewish community to speak against the hate, misinformation, and national xenophobia that have caused a gridlock revolving around immigration issues as they relate to Mexico and Central America and the current humanitarian crisis focused on Syrian refugees.  JSPAN is committed to support and protect immigrants and refugees by advocating for policies that fall in line with our Jewish values and history.

Current Issues, Positions, Actions Taken on Their Behalf:

JSPAN lobbies Congress to pass the Freedom of Religion Act. Politicians’ attempts to attack and make broad characterizations of immigrant or religious groups should be viewed as what they are, a ploy to distract us from the public policy and hard choices which are really needed.  This is why JSPAN, as part of the Bend the Arc Conference, lobbied Congress members to pass the Freedom of Religion Act, which would block any attempts to exclude immigrants, refugees, or travelers to the U.S. on the basis of religion.

Related action taken:

  • Continuing to lobby Congress to Pass the Freedom of Religion Act.

JSPAN fights against laws and policies that are discriminatory or are anti-immigrant. Today, anti-immigrant rules and laws are neutral on their face but use measures such as legal status or language ability to make prohibitions. These laws are discriminatory and in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

An example of this type of discriminatory law was noted in July of 2006, when the City of Hazleton, Pennsylvania passed anti-immigrant legislation that would punish landlords and employers accused of renting to or hiring anyone the city classifies as an “illegal alien.” If a business refused to comply with the law and investigate an employee or tenant, it would be fined or denied a business permit.  JSPAN spoke out against this discriminatory law in Lozano v. Hazleton by working with other groups on an amicus brief declaring that the law was unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  Though struck down on other grounds, JSPAN is proud of its work in this case and will continue to fight discriminatory, anti-immigrant laws.

Related actions taken:

         HB 1885- read the bill at

JSPAN supports creating pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and ending injustices to immigrants regardless of immigration statusMany undocumented immigrants are contributing to American society, by increasing the labor force, earning money, paying taxes and raising families, yet are blocked from achieving the American Dream, labeled an underclass with no pathway to citizenship.

Congress has failed to even pass the most basic legislation, the DREAM Act, the first step in creating a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants, which was first proposed with bipartisan support in 2001, and although it has been reintroduced numerous times, it has continued to be defeated.

It is in this atmosphere that President Obama took Executive Action and introduced Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA in 2012, and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents or DAPA in 2014. These programs provide non-citizens a temporary stay in the United States and benefit not only the immigrants who can live without fear of arrest and find jobs that match their skill but also benefit the economy as a whole. JSPAN supports the Executive Actions President Obama has taken.

Related actions taken:

JSPAN works to ensure those facing persecution can legally take refuge in the United States.  JSPAN fought for the rights of asylum seekers fleeing religious persecution by filing an amicus brief in Estalita v. Holder on behalf of several religious organizations.  Although the Supreme Court decided not to hear this case, JSPAN continues to advocate for consistent and fair laws regarding asylum seekers by writing letters to protest Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted unconscionable raids and deportations of Central Americans who are fleeing dangerous countries.


  • February 21, 2016:  JSPAN Supports Refugee Resettlement, Including Syrians
  • February 21, 2016:  JSPAN Urges End to Raids Targeting Asylum Seekers
  • JSPAN is a signatory to the HIAS Welcome Campaign as a community-based organization:
  • JSPAN supports New Sanctuary Movement’s Drivers Licenses For All initiative in Pennsylvania:
  • May 31, 2016:  Letter to Rabbinic Colleagues from George Stern regarding supporting HIAS’s Welcome Campaign and New Sanctuary Movement’s Driver’s Licenses for All Campaign

Cooperating Organizations:

HIAS:  Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society -

PICC:  Pennsylvania Immigration Citizenship Coalition -

NSM:  New Sanctuary Movement -

JSPAN Policy Center on Immigration Leadership:  

Marlena R. Kleit, Chair

Members of the Center are:

  •  Nate Kleinman
  •  Judah Labovitz
  •  Rebecca Kirzner
  •  Mark Stier

Advisers:  The following persons have agreed to be available to help us fashion our policies where appropriate.

  • Ron Klasko is a Philadelphia attorney who is also a former national president and three-term General Counsel of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
  • Judi Bernstein-Baker is Executive Director of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and Council Migration in Philadelphia
  • Eleanor Pelta is a Washington Attorney who serves on the Board of Governors of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and is a Trustee of the American Immigration Law Foundation.