The National Council of Jewish Women Bergen County Section sponsored an extremely informative seminar entitled “Immigration Reform: An American Dilemma” on November 18 at Temple Emeth in Teaneck. Attended by approximately 300 people, the session included very well informed and articulate panelists.
The flyer said: All of us are descendants of immigrants…men, women and children who were once strangers in a strange land. Generation after generation of wanderers have shaped our national experience. Our strength as a nation has come from the diversity of our people….NCJW works for comprehensive, humane and equitable immigration and naturalization laws that facilitate and expedite legal status for more individuals.
The afternoon was opened by NJ Legislative Speaker Vincent Prieto, a Cuban immigrant, who spoke of his own experience. The panel was then moderated by Assemblywoman Valerie Vanieri Huttle, of the 37th district.
Panelist Michael Wildes, former mayor of Englewood and an immigration attorney, updated the audience on the current situation of migrants in this county. He asserted that “muster zones”–areas where day laborers wait for daily jobs–provide opportunities for employers to treat them as little more than slaves–throwaway cheap labor that they can underpay, overwork, or fail to pay, with impunity. He also said flatly that these laborers do not take jobs from U.S. citizens, and that unions are of little help because they are closely focused on politics.
Wildes cited New York Mayor DeBlasio’s recent move to provide municipal ID cards to workers as a major benefit.
“We are better because of their presence,” Wildes said of the migrants who live in the county. “We must shift our focus to the positive contributions they make, including to the Social Security fund to which they contribute $15 Billion but are only able to take out $1 Billion.”
In the Question and Answer session Wildes responded to an audience member who said, “Why can’t they get in line like the rest of us did,” by saying, “We need more humility before we ask such questions. Many of our Jewish ancestors got here the same way as current migrants–however they could. Before 1937 or 1938 it was illegal for Jews to come here–but they came anyway. Many of us are descendants of these illegal immigrants.”
Kudos to NCJWBCS for a wonderful afternoon.