The great Jewish philosopher Rambam taught that the law as a whole aims to defend two things: the welfare of the soul and the welfare of the body. Our tradition inspires our belief that government must enact laws that enhance the welfare of both. Unfortunately, over the past weeks, Congressional leaders have focused on passing a harmful tax bill instead of addressing urgent issues that, without action, will endanger the bodies of millions and the soul of our country. Congress should act swiftly to resolve these issues before recessing for the holidays.
Congress has placed nearly 800,000 immigrant youth at heightened risk of deportation by failing to pass the Dream Act (S.1615/H.R.3440), a permanent, legislative fix to the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Thousands of Reform Jews have joined with immigrant justice leaders and partners to proclaim that DREAMers should immediately receive protections under the Dream Act, including legal status and a pathway to citizenship. Each day that Congress delays acting on the Dream Act, approximately 122 people lose their DACA protections. Congress should combat the insecurity and anxiety of these 800,000 DREAMers, not prolong it.
Federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expired nearly three months ago. Children and their families are already at risk of losing their health care. In some states, families have already received notices that they soon may not have insurance to cover their children. No child—let alone the 8.9 million CHIP enrollees—should be denied the care to which they are entitled, and no parent should be forced to decide between paying for food or medical treatment. Congress must pass a five-year reauthorization of CHIP funding immediately, and should not sacrifice anyone’s access to quality, affordable care to pay for it.
Congress has also yet to provide adequate funding for millions of Americans affected by natural disasters. Earlier this month, 6,000 Reform Jews unanimously affirmed their commitment to provide relief to individuals harmed by climate change related disasters. While the cause of any one disaster cannot be known, we do know that climate change contributes to a pattern of increasing natural disasters. We must support the Americans who have lost jobs, homes, and loved ones—whether in California, Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands—as we now work to create resilient communities which can withstand the future disasters climate change will exacerbate. Earlier this week, the House revealed its proposal for disaster funding. We hope the House and Senate will work together to ensure relief funding reaches these communities quickly, and includes Medicaid relief for Puerto Rico.
Before Congress recesses for the holidays, it should first consider the health of children, the security of immigrant youth, and the future of people struck by disaster. We urge Congress and the Administration to act immediately.
Allison Grossman is the Legislative Director at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
This piece originally appeared on The RAC's Blog.