(JTA) — Twenty-six Jewish groups signed a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen opposing the government policy of separating children from their migrant parents.
The letter, which was organized by the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Council for Public Affairs, calls the policy “unconscionable.”
Signers include three major Jewish religious movements — Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist — as well as the American Jewish Committee, HIAS, Jewish Women’s International and Uri L’Tzedek, an Orthodox social justice organization.
“This policy undermines the values of our nation and jeopardizes the safety and well-being of thousands of people,” the letter says. “As Jews, we understand the plight of being an immigrant fleeing violence and oppression. We believe that the United States is a nation of immigrants and how we treat the stranger reflects on the moral values and ideals of this nation.”
Last month, the Trump administration announced a “zero tolerance” policy for illegal border crossings, saying it would significantly increase criminal prosecutions of migrants, The New York Times reported. Officials acknowledged that putting more adults in jail would mean separating more children from their families.
Sessions spoke Wednesday at a conference of the Orthodox Union in Washington, D.C, and was honored with a plaque containing an artistic rendering of the biblical command “Justice, justice shalt thou pursue.”
Ahead of Sessions’ speech, the liberal rabbinic human rights organization T’ruah put out a petition asking the O.U. to challenge Sessions’ policies on immigration, including directives that have led to the indefinite separation of parents and children entering the United States at the southern border. The petition had over 1,500 signatures on Thursday.
The O.U. responded on Twitter, saying that its leadership had raised immigration with Sessions in a private session prior to his speech.
In a separate statement issued Wednesday, the liberal Mideast policy group J Street said it is “outraged and appalled by reports that the Trump administration is considering the construction of tent camps to house thousands of migrant children, some of whom the government forcibly separated from their parents.”
The statement called it “stunning to see, in the United States of America, in the 21st century, such hideous echoes of the historical experiences of the Jewish people. Our history and our values have taught us to recognize and despise bigotry, persecution and state-sponsored outrages against vulnerable groups. This history and these values compel us to do all that we can to speak out and fight back against the Trump administration’s deeply cruel and un-American policies.”