AJC New England 2020 Candidate Survey: Question 2
Racism, Immigration and Human Rights
Question 2: There is widespread agreement that our current immigration system is in need of reform consistent with our nation’s economic and national security interests and its historic commitment to be a haven for the vulnerable and oppressed around the world. What do you foresee as the best pathway forward for immigration reform and how would you work across the aisle to achieve these policy goals?
First, I fully support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, the Dream Act, and the Migrant Justice Platform. Undocumented people are humans that contribute to our society and must be allowed to come out from the shadows and become full, participating members of our society. This makes sense morally, economically, and from a public safety standpoint. For too long, we have allowed our broken immigration system to harm the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and it is time we take action to rectify that harm.
I have worked closely with labor unions throughout my campaign, and they all support these measures as well. They support them because when we have a large undocumented population living in fear, corporations will exploit them, and this hurts all workers, regardless of immigration status.
In the long run, we must restore our historical promises and credibility in the world by creating an orderly, fair, and inclusive immigration system. My family came to this country from Eastern Europe where they almost certainly would have been killed had they stayed. For so many people in the world, the United States represented a place of sanctuary and hope. Now, under the current Administration, the United States is, for millions of people around the world and especially in Central and South America, a place of exclusion and even terror. This is an abdication of moral leadership in the world. I believe that we can work across the aisle by appealing to the better angels of our history and tradition. America is at its best when we welcome those throughout the world yearning to breathe free and eager to build lives here as Americans. America is still a beacon of hope in the world, even during these dark times. I think that much is still bipartisan, and we can make progress from that shared belief.
Immigration is a deeply personal issue to me. I am able to have the life I have and step forward as a candidate for U.S. Congress because my family managed to escape Poland before the Holocaust and immigrate to this country. I’m horrified and outraged by President Trump’s campaign of lies and relentless racial, ethnic, and religious hatred against immigrants, threatening people and tearing apart families who have contributed to our nation for years and demonizing those whose only “crime” is to believe that America means a better future for themselves and their children. Separating families and putting children in cages not only undercuts our values but also doesn’t make us any safer. Reversing Trump’s cruel immigration agenda must be the first step when the next administration takes office.
Moving forward from there, I will fight to protect immigrants and American values and support long-overdue immigration reform. We need to protect our DREAMers and ensure that DACA is once and for all the law of the land. We need to stop dehumanizing undocumented immigrants and instead treat them with compassion and open a path to citizenship. We also must ensure that America is once again a safe haven for those escaping persecution and abuse, and I will fight to restore our annual refugee quota to the Obama-era levels. Finally, we need to redeploy our federal to focus on real cross-border dangers such as human trafficking, weapons smuggling, and the illicit importation of drugs.
The administration has been going forward with border security and wall construction in order to stop the massive flow of illegal immigration. That must be completed first, then an overall merit-based immigration system should replace the patchwork system that has been in place but ignored in many respects over the last 50 years. I will work with anyone across the aisle that agrees on these principles: effective border security, a merit-based immigration system with special consideration for those legitimately seeking asylum, the dissolution of sanctuary cities throughout the nation in order to help immigration officials detect and detain dangerous individuals who are here illegally, and a reform of our visa and work permit system that is in the best interests of the American worker. There has to be a system created within the above parameters to effectively deal with the millions of people who are in the United States illegally due to border crossings, overstaying their visas, and the Dreamers. There needs to be a process for these folks to gain legal status but they must go through the process in turn like every other applicant to participate in the naturalization process.
I am the son of immigrants. My father was an immigrant from Iran, who left a country of dictatorship for a country of freedom, equality of opportunity and justice for all. My grandfather on my Mom’s side came from Italy, and my Great-Grandfather also came from Italy and worked in the coal mines of Western, PA—and was inspired by John L. Lewis to fight for the coal miners union. If elected, I would be the first Iranian-American ever elected to the United States Congress. All that is my way of saying I know how vital immigrants are to our economic goals, our political discussions, and our cultural fabric.
I strongly support comprehensive immigration reform. That includes a pathway to citizenship that is far more expeditious and efficient than the system that currently exists. However, I oppose harmful “reforms” such as cuts in family immigration, and strongly oppose efforts, before comprehensive immigration is enacted, to make the flawed E-Verify program mandatory or to force layoffs based on Social Security number mismatches that affect many U.S. citizens and authorized workers.
I also believe in a human-centered immigration and refugee policy. We cannot cage children in inhumane facilities, and we need to reform ICE before more lives are destroyed. America must remain the beacon of hope for people across the world. We need common-sense security measures, instead of blanket bans, to keep our country safe while offering the American Dream to those who need it most.
The United States is a nation of immigrants. I am a son of immigrants. People used to immigrate here through Ellis Island in the thousands. Immigration is our heritage, and it should be our future.
I was born in the U.S. when my parents were here for their medical residencies but moved to Greece when I was a month old and came back to Massachusetts at 17 for college. So while I have always had citizenship, much of my lived experience has been that of an immigrant. I believe immigrants strengthen the U.S. and am appalled by the Trump Administration’s treatment of immigrants and refugees. As a public health expert, I have noted how our anti-immigrant sentiment is hindering our COVID-19 response as people are reluctant to get tested or share details with contact tracers if they or their friends and family are undocumented.
We must never again see inhumane child separation and deportation policies and should put in place a moratorium on the construction of new detention facilities, increase humanitarian aid to the border, and hold the government accountable with a comprehensive investigation into the deaths of children in U.S. custody. I will work to strengthen family reunification and create a more effective naturalization system by eliminating the backlog of millions of families awaiting reunification visas. I will also advocate for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and make it easier for those eligible for Citizenship to naturalize. In many cases, those coming from countries such as Honduras and El Salvador would stay in their home country if it were safe. Therefore, providing aid and support to countries of origin is also important. Globally, the U.S. needs to increase its refugee quotas. Having worked with refugees in Pakistan, Lebanon, and Greece, the U.S. not only has the means to support more refugees but is also enhanced by their presence.
The treatment of children and families at our borders has been one of the most offensive and unjust actions of Donald Trump’s many racist policies and will forever be a stain on our nation. The Trump administration has attacked immigration at every level, across the board – from refugees and asylum seekers to those holding H1-B visas to meet our workforce needs and, most egregiously, those being inhumanely separated from their families at the border. We need strong, moral leadership to right these wrongs and find a path that is reflective of the values America aspires to embody.
We need to fight back against the policies the Trump administration has set forth on immigration and find a different path more in line with our history and our values. The Fourth Congressional District has a proud history of welcoming people from distant shores– no matter which corner of the planet we all share. Our broken immigration system needs to be overhauled to create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants- not criminalizing their mere existence in our nation. I support the Dream Act and Migrant Justice Platform. Here in Massachusetts, I have been supportive of the Work and Families Mobility Act (the Driver’s License bill).
Regarding inquiries 1-9, I plan to work with US Government Officials, Institutions and other subject matter experts to work towards addressing these important topics.
Fixing our immigration system is a moral, ethical, and economic imperative. We need an immigration system and a society that allows EVERYone to thrive, no matter where they came from, how they got here, what they look like, and what language they speak. Creating an inclusive society that EVERYone can participate in, regardless of immigration status, will only strengthen our social, economic and civic life. Our immigration system and by extension our society, should not merely attempt to protect and support our immigrants, but rather seize every opportunity to uplift and celebrate immigrants, while expanding their access to opportunities. We are all interconnected, and we are in this together. Our immigrant neighbors have made our society, commonwealth and country more vibrant and stronger and helped it progress further. They have also made significant social, cultural, civic, scientific, and technological contributions to our neighborhoods and society, and have been a vibrant engine in our economy here in Massachusetts and throughout the country.
I believe we need compassionate and comprehensive immigration reform, with a pathway to citizenship for the 12+ million undocumented immigrants, providing permanent status for recipients of TPS and DACA, decriminalizing unauthorized border crossing, stopping ICE from continuing its xenophobic attacks on our immigrant community, intentionally intimidating, threatening, harassing and striking fear into our immigrant community, ending the public charge rule, ensuring that all of our immigrants, regardless of status receive healthcare coverage, unemployment assistance and the ability to receive their drivers licenses, stopping all zero-tolerance immigration policies at the borders for migrants, removing and destigmatizing the label and image that an undocumented immigrant is a criminal, investing in providing free language classes for English learners, and supporting the Safe Communities Act.
American Jewish Committee (AJC) is the leading organization dedicated to Jewish advocacy at home and around the world. Through a global network comprised of 24 domestic regional offices; 12 overseas posts in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East; and 37 partnerships with international Jewish communities, AJC engages with political, religious and civic leaders to combat antisemitism and bigotry, support Israel’s quest for peace and security, and advance democratic values at home and abroad.
AJC New England recently invited all 11 Republican and Democratic declared candidates for the Congressional seat from the 4th District of Massachusetts to participate in a survey on some matters of import to our community.
AJC is a 501(c)(3) non-partisan organization and does not endorse or support any candidate for elected office, whether or not they responded to the survey. We offer this survey to educate the electorate about the views of the candidates for this office.