The newly formed Greater Philadelphia Jewish Coalition on Immigration, which came about in response to a flurry of legislative activity in Harrisburg targeting undocumented immigrants, hashed out its mission statement at a December meeting.
The umbrella group -- convened by HIAS & Council Migration Services of Philadelphia and the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia -- will focus on mobilizing "the Jewish community to support and to advocate for fair and just immigration reform on city, state and federal levels."
To that end, the coalition is in the early stages of organizing a month's work of educational programming on immigration issues in synagogues across the region. The plan is for the programming to follow Passover. The coalition will also push to get more congregations involved, such as by becoming what HIAS calls "American friends" to newly resettled refugee families.
The group plans to encourage synagogues to contact lawmakers at the state and federal levels to push for "fair and just immigration reform."
Philippe Weisz, an attorney at HIAS who is chair of the coalition, said the group intends to formulate a more detailed position on legislation.
"Even before you get to the point, in terms of what a just and fair immigration reform looks like, there needs to be an honest discussion as to what the facts are on the ground," said Weisz. "Unfortunately, a lot of of the rhetoric here and in the media is just a simple mischaracterization as to who the immigrants are and what are the costs of immigrants on society."