The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society lobbied on immigration reform for three days in Washington.
The board of HIAS met with Bush administration officials in the U.S. Homeland Security and State Departments, as well as with lawmakers, to argue for a renewed effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Similar efforts to offer a legal path to immigration for undocumented workers were scuttled in the last Congress by Republican opposition.
“We need to create a working immigration system,” HIAS president Gideon Aronoff told JTA on Wednesday.
The HIAS leaders advocated for extensions to the religious worker visa program, which is due to expire in September and which would Hebrew schools hard. HIAS also lobbied for a two-year extension to the five years of assistance now available for elderly and disabled immigrants who have yet to achieve citizenship.
HIAS gave Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) its Liberty Award for initiating the Lautenberg Amendment in 1989. That amendment, which eases proof of refugee status for immigrants from the former Soviet Union, has been reapproved each year since. Lautenberg told the group the amendment was still critical for Jews and Christians living in the former Soviet republics. “We need to keep the door open to those fleeing persecution,” he said.