While the mention of the word immigration in Washington is usually related to building walls and DREAMers, recent changes in US policy have many other ramifications within the Orthodox community. Agudath Israel frequently receives calls from individuals and institutions about a host of immigration issues, including visa requirements for religious workers and foreign students. Often, we receive desperate calls before weddings about family members – sometimes the bride or groom themselves – stopped at the border. Unfortunately, many of these problems could have been avoided. David Grunblatt, co-head of the Immigration and Nationality Group at Proskauer Rose LLP in Newark, New Jersey is our go-to expert and was recently interviewed by Hamodia. I sent the article to our staff under the heading “required reading” and I encourage all of you to read it (here) and share it with friends, especially non-citizens from Canada and Israel who plan to visit the US. The article covers the basic framework for visitors coming into the US, and many common situations where ignorance of immigration laws could have serious long term repercussions on individuals and institutions.
Earlier this week Illinois Governor Pritzker signed the state’s budget and capital bills which included several important priorities for Agudath Israel. See here for a full summary which highlights the importance of grassroots advocacy, persistence, legislative leadership, and strong coalitions.
Nevada’s legislative session ended this week with a bittersweet (more bitter than sweet) victory for school choice. While the Legislature added $9.5 million for the Opportunity Scholarship tax credit program to ensure that current students won’t lose their scholarships, the final legislative language prevents any new students from enrolling in the future. Legislators also repealed the Education Savings Account program enacted in 2015. While more than 8,000 students applied for an ESA, the program was never funded, first because of a lawsuit and then because of…politics. Thank you to Rabbi Mendy Levine of Yeshiva Day School of Las Vegas for providing a uniquely Jewish voice to this issue and working with our coalition partners advocating for Nevada children.
The need for increased security funding continues to receive support in Congress. Earlier this week, the House DHS Appropriations Subcommittee included $90 million for nonprofits in the FY 2020 DHS Funding Bill. While the $50 million allocated for at-risk urban areas remained the same, the $40 million for the rest of the country was quadrupled from last year’s allocation. Agudath Israel’s vice president for government affairs and Washington director Rabbi Abba Cohen thanked Reps. Nita Lowey, Lucile Roybal-Allard, and Grace Meng for their support of this issue and the Jewish Federations of North America for leading the advocacy coalition. On the Senate side, a similar effort led by Senators Rob Portman and Gary Peters called, Protecting Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations from Terrorism Act, would provide a total of $75 million for the grant program. Agudah commends the senators for creating awareness that more security resources are needed for nonprofits.
As we approach the holiday of Shavuos, Agudah is working hard preparing for the upcoming Daf Yomi Siyum Hashas – the completion of the seven and a half year, daily study of the entire Talmud. Ticket sales for the January 1st 2020 event at MetLife stadium will begin soon, but there other ways to prepare. Even those not studying the Daf Yomi are encouraged to participate in some way. Our Chavrei HaSiyum program, which allows individuals and communities to join together to complete learning goals, has over 95 shuls and over 4,000 members signed up, with more being approached and committing every week. The Masmidei HaSiyum has nearly 30,000 children signed up so far and is giving away exciting prizes each week. Go to thesiyum.org for information about all of these programs and our Siyum App. I encourage you to watch the two-minute video above which gives a small glimpse of the impact from the last Siyum.