Remarks at Immigration & Customs Enforcement Vigil

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Vigil
Held at the Office of Homeland Security on February 4, 2016

Remarks by Rabbi David B. Cohen


The Bible suggests that, in the end of days, we will be judged not by how we honored the powerful, but by how we supported the least powerful among us, in particular, the stranger.

The call for justice and compassion voiced by prophets like Amos, Micah and Isaiah requires that citizens and strangers alike be treated fairly and equally. As it says in Leviticus: “You shall have one standard for stranger and citizen alike; I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 24-22)

One standard for stranger and citizen. Imagine what that would mean, a city…
• Where due process and protection from unreasonable search and seizure apply both to the powerful and to the powerless.
• Where immigrant families aren’t torn apart and single parents sent back to countries they barely know.
• Where the doors to education and advancement are wide open, as they were for my great grandparents at the dawn of the twentieth century.
• Where it is possible to get photo ID cards and find sanctuary in cities that so define themselves.
• Where for-profit private prisons housing immigrants run according to the same rules as those run by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
• Where immigrants are treated with honor and respect, not held as hostages in an attempt to gain political advantage.

Friends, while the immigration system is broken, we should still remind ourselves that we are surrounded by a world of miracles and possibilities. A story: the Israelites crossing the Red Sea walked on solid ground, with walls of water to the left and the right. Two young men walked, never looking up. Instead, they spent their time complaining about how muddy their sandals were getting.

To remind us of the miraculous blessings we’ve experienced, I will read “Dayenu” from the Passover Seder. Dayenu means, it would have been enough. It reminds us of the miraculous all around us and our own power to make for change.

Friends, the time is now. Let’s join hands together and in partnership with God, to right these wrongs. As I’ve learned from you, SI SE PUEDE.