Give Immigrant Students the Chance to DREAM

JSPAN Newsletter - March 8, 2012
Jewish Social Policy Action Network

In this Issue:
Newsletter: March 8, 2012
Give Immigrant Students the Chance to DREAM
The House and Senate must vote to pass the bipartisan DREAM Act (HR 1842/ S 952), which addresses the situation faced by young people who were brought to the United States as undocumented immigrant children and who have since grown up here, stayed in school, and have been law-abiding contributors to our communities. Each year about 65,000 U.S.-raised students who would qualify for the DREAM Act’s benefits graduate from high school. Even though they were brought to the U.S. as children, they face unique barriers to higher education, are unable to work legally in the U.S., and often live in constant fear of detection by immigration authorities.

The DREAM Act would provide certain undocumented youth conditional legal status and eventual citizenship if they attend college or join the military. It would allow immigrant students access to higher education by returning to states the authority to determine who qualifies for in-state tuition. This legislation is merely a response to the needs of young adults who wish to continue to make a positive contribution to our nation.

Jewish tradition is clear on the treatment of immigrants, demanding of us concern for the stranger in our midst. Leviticus commands, "When strangers sojourn with you in your land, you shall not do them wrong. The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" [19:33-34]. This principle is echoed 35 times in the Torah.

Ask your Representatives and Senators to support the DREAM Act (HR 1842/ S 952).
The Capitol Switchboard can be reached at 202.224.3121


Growing Support for Drug Testing of Welfare Recipients
Published: February 25, 2012

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Conservatives who say welfare recipients should have to pass a drug test to receive government assistance have momentum on their side. The issue has come up in the Republican presidential campaign, with Mitt Romney calling it an "excellent idea."

Nearly two dozen states are considering measures that would make drug testing mandatory for welfare recipients, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Wyoming lawmakers advanced such a proposal last week.

Driving the measures is a perception that people on public assistance are misusing the money and that cutting off their benefits would save money for tight state budgets - even as statistics have largely proved both notions untrue.

"The idea from Joe Taxpayer is, 'I don't mind helping you out, but you need to show that you're looking for work, or better yet that you're employed, and that you're drug and alcohol free,' " said Edward A. Buchanan, a Republican who is the speaker of the Wyoming House.

Supporters are pushing the measures despite warnings that courts have struck down similar programs, ruling that the plans amount to an unconstitutional search of people who have done nothing more than seek help.

"This legislation assumes suspicion on this group of people," State Representative W. Patrick Goggles, a Democrat, said during a debate on the Wyoming measure late Thursday. "It assumes that they're drug abusers."

About three dozen states have taken up such measures over the years. But the idea has prompted political debates across the nation as lawmakers seek new ways to fight off the effects of the recession.

[read more]


Allentown Woman Shows Harrisburg how to Make a Legislative Map
Philadelphia Inquirer
By Amy Worden
February 27, 2012

ALLENTOWN - Two years ago, Amanda Holt set out to answer a simple question: why was a single voting precinct in her township tacked on to a sprawling congressional district that meandered through the Philadelphia suburbs?

One question led to another. Why was that precinct the only bit of Lehigh County in the district? And why was so much of Pennsylvania carved into zig-zagging, oddly shaped legislative districts?

"I thought, 'This is crazy, why is it like this?' " Holt said. "They weren't supposed to be dividing political subdivisions unless absolutely necessary. The only way to answer the question was create a map myself."

So she did.

And with that, the 29-year-old piano teacher plunged down the rabbit hole of Pennsylvania politics.

Holt, a Republican with neither a college degree nor a particularly partisan bent, did what none of the top minds in the Capitol could - or would - do: make maps that plot out 203 state House districts and 50 state Senate districts in a way that, according to the highest court in the state, made sense. In January, on challenges filed by Holt and others, a divided state Supreme Court tossed out the legislative maps that the Republican-controlled Legislative Reapportionment Commission had approved in December.

The court said those maps, based on the 2010 census, did not meet the constitutional requirement of minimizing the number of "splits" that divvy up municipalities among two or more legislative districts.

As it turns out, Holt's maps served as the foundation of the court's 4-3 ruling. "The Holt plan" was evidence that the commission hadn't tried hard enough to avoid splits - "powerful evidence, indeed," Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille wrote in his 84-page opinion.

[read more]


What Ails Europe?
The New York Times
By Paul Krugman
February 26, 2012


Things are terrible here, as unemployment soars past 13 percent. Things are even worse in Greece, Ireland, and arguably in Spain, and Europe as a whole appears to be sliding back into recession.

Why has Europe become the sick man of the world economy? Everyone knows the answer. Unfortunately, most of what people know isn't true - and false stories about European woes are warping our economic discourse.

Read an opinion piece about Europe - or, all too often, a supposedly factual news report - and you'll probably encounter one of two stories, which I think of as the Republican narrative and the German narrative. Neither story fits the facts.

The Republican story - it's one of the central themes of Mitt Romney's campaign - is that Europe is in trouble because it has done too much to help the poor and unlucky, that we're watching the death throes of the welfare state. This story is, by the way, a perennial right-wing favorite: back in 1991, when Sweden was suffering from a banking crisis brought on by deregulation (sound familiar?), the Cato Institute published a triumphant report on how this proved the failure of the whole welfare state model.

Did I mention that Sweden, which still has a very generous welfare state, is currently a star performer, with economic growth faster than that of any other wealthy nation?

But let's do this systematically. Look at the 15 European nations currently using the euro (leaving Malta and Cyprus aside), and rank them by the percentage of G.D.P. they spent on social programs before the crisis. Do the troubled GIPSI nations (Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy) stand out for having unusually large welfare states? No, they don't; only Italy was in the top five, and even so its welfare state was smaller than Germany's. So excessively large welfare states didn't cause the troubles.

[read more]


Game Time Is Adjusted; Jewish School Will Play
The New York Times
By Mary Pilon
March 1, 2012

A Texas high school athletics association said Thursday that, under legal pressure, it would change the time of a boys basketball state semifinal game to accommodate an Orthodox Jewish day school in Houston whose players observe the Sabbath.

The school, the Robert M. Beren Academy, was expected to forfeit its game against the Covenant School of Dallas, scheduled for 9 p.m. Friday. It appealed to the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, the group that organizes the event, but the association said it was unwilling to change the time of the game, citing its bylaws.

But on Thursday, the association, known as Tapps, said on its Web site that it would comply with Beren Academy's request and reschedule the semifinal game as well as the final should Beren win.

The semifinal will be played at 2 p.m. Friday at Nolan Catholic High School in Forth Worth; the championship game would be scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday, said Edd Burelson, the director of Tapps. The organization received "hundreds of e-mails" regarding the Beren Academy schedule, he said.

"Legal concerns" brought about the schedule change," said Burleson, adding: "I really don't think our board was going to yield to the negativisms. They felt they had a reason, but in this particular case, they felt that it was in our best interest not to fight and delay the tournament."

"There was resistance to our bringing the lawsuit," Alyza Lewin said. "We're sorry that there are members of the Jewish community who are reluctant to challenge bias and prejudice as a result of this. But this case shows that sometimes legal action is necessary to get a result."

[read more]

The Robert M Beren Academy won their game on Friday but lost to Abilene Christian, 46-42, on Saturday night, March 3, in the state championship game - Ed.


'Jew Pond' Earns Unwanted Scrutiny
New England Town Ponders Name With Curious History

The Forward
By Ted Siefer
March 02, 2012

MONT VERNON, N.H. - One could say it was bacteria that caused Jew Pond to emerge from the miasma of history.

In the summer of 2010, an algae bloom forced the closure of a small swampy pond near the center of Mont Vernon, a storybook New Hampshire town of 2,400 people. And so it was that "Jew Pond" was splashed across the headlines of the local papers.

The name wasn't news to longtime residents; that's what they had always called the pond. As best as anyone could remember, it was because a couple of Jews had briefly owned a nearby hotel back in the 1920s.

Newer residents, including a Jewish couple living in town, were aghast at what they considered a slur. A well-meaning town health officer petitioned authorities to change the name.

But the town's Yankee establishment dug in its heels, insisting that the name is part of its heritage. Now the issue is on the agenda of a March 13 town meeting. There's probably no one in Mont Vernon with a more visceral reaction to the Jew Pond controversy than Jill and Frank Weber, one of the few Jewish families in the area. The Webers, who are originally from New York, have lived in the area for nearly 40 years since buying a ramshackle house for $12,000. ("We were ripped off," Frank Weber exclaimed.) They say they love the community spirit even though they know they will always be considered outsiders."I feel so fortunate for having found my roots here," said Frank Weber, a burly man whose father was killed by the Nazis.

Still, the Jew Pond name struck a nerve, and the Webers are determined to speak out against it at the upcoming meeting.

[read more]


Teaching Toddlers About Haman
The Forward
By Jennifer Bleyer
March 6, 2012

A funny thing happened in my house the other day. And by funny, I mean dismaying and somewhat depressing. My two-year-old daughter came home from preschool talking about a Bad Man. When we hear this Bad Man's name, she told me with wide-eyed gusto, we make a lot of noise to scare him away.

As she excitedly recounted the Purim story, I realized I'd approached a rite of passage in modern Jewish parenthood that's right up there with wincing at a bris and trying to make Hanukkah something more than a tsunami of presents. It was, of course, the dilemma of how to teach kids our often difficult and scary religious tales, of which Purim is probably the most difficult and scary.

And I'm not talking about the whole minefield of problems like the sexism in the Vashti scene, the valuation of female beauty in the Esther thread, and the bloody revenge levied against the Jews' enemies - to say nothing of the super scary part about the genocide plot, which was thankfully left out of my daughter's introduction to the holiday. No, at this point I just mean the simple idea of there being Bad Men, like Haman. Of course, there are bad people in the world. But is that something that toddlers who have never heard of them need to learn?

[read more]


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