Plenum 2011

Resolution on Preserving Birthright Citizenship under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

adopted by the 2011 JCPA Plenum

The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution affirmed the concept of birthright citizenship, i.e., determining a person's citizenship by place of birth. Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment provides "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."1 This provision echoes the founding precepts of our Declaration of Independence that, endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights, "all men are created equal"; it embodies the elegant thoughts of Abraham Lincoln in his July 4, 1858 speech and later the Gettysburg address2, and it inspired the words on our Statute of Liberty as it welcomes new immigrants to this day3. This Constitutional provision insures "that all native-born children, whether members of an unpopular minority or descendants of privileged ancestors . . . have the inalienable right to citizenship and all its privileges and immunities.”4 It reflects the American Dream that only hard work and ability, not ancestry or class, should determine one's achievement in our nation. As Jews we, or our immigrant forebears, or both have benefited greatly from this uniquely America ethos.

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Resolution on Elections

adopted by 2011 JCPA Plenum

The cornerstone of democracy is the election process. The mission statement of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs recognizes that Jewish security is linked inexorably to the strength of democratic institutions and that the Jewish community has a direct stake and an ethical imperative to assure that America remains a country wedded to the Bill of Rights and committed to the rule of law, a nation whose institutions continue to function as a public trust.

The rights of individuals to run for office, support candidates of their choice, volunteer, contribute, and vote are essential. Safeguards are needed to prevent fraud, but in general the more open the electoral process, the more likely the will of the citizenry will be reflected in our government.

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Resolution on Immigration Enforcement

adopted by the 2011 JCPA Plenum

The United States is a nation of immigrants. While immigration laws are necessary, they should be respectful of human rights and never become a tool for hate and discrimination. The U.S. Constitution and numerous acts of Congress provide the federal government with preeminent authority over immigration. Immigration policy has been the exclusive purview of the federal government because it involves the careful balancing of national law enforcement, foreign relations, economic interests, and humanitarian interests. State and local governments have historically left it to the federal government to consider the various objectives of our nation’s immigration laws and to enact legislation to promote national goals.

In recent years, the presence of an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, along with the repeated and continuing failure of Congress to enact legislation to fix our country’s outdated and ineffective immigration system, have spurred state and local legislatures to enact their own immigration laws. Our nation has a right and obligation to safeguard its borders and to enact and enforce its immigration laws. Some recent immigration measures at the federal and state levels have been aimed at enhancing the ability of state and local law enforcement officials to identify and apprehend undocumented immigrants. Others have required landlords, employers, health care providers, state and local government employees, and others to take action to report or otherwise penalize undocumented immigrants.

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Resolution on Senior Poverty

adopted by the 2011 JCPA Plenum

Older Americans who are living in poverty often suffer in silence, living in the shadows while trying to make ends meet. A single life change—a costly illness, loss of a job, or death of a spouse—can quickly threaten the financial stability of seniors. This has become especially true during the most recent recession.

Older Americans are sometimes reluctant, ashamed, or challenged to reach out for help or connect themselves with important services that could help them secure shelter, feed themselves, or buy medicine. It is also not uncommon to hear stories about moderate- and low-income seniors having to make difficult decisions about their personal finances: deciding between paying for heat in the winter or an entire month’s worth of medication.

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Resolution on Youth Bullying

adopted by 2011 JCPA Plenum

The many forms of bullying affect one-third of our youth today. Bullying and harassment is a continuing problem for school districts, parents, students and communities across the nation. The impact of bullying has been well documented – studies have shown that difficulty making friends, loneliness, low self-esteem, depression, poor academic achievement, truancy and even suicide are all associated with being bullied.

In addition to face-to-face bullying, cyberbullying has become another means for some youth to bully and harass others. An increasing number of youth are misusing online technology to bully, harass and even incite violence against others. As opposed to traditional bullying, cyberbullying through modern communication technology can be more pervasive and invasive in nature: electronic messages can be circulated far and wide in an instant, and are usually irrevocable. Despite the prevalence and impact of cyberbullying, many adults are unaware of the problem due to a lack of fluency in new technologies, limited involvement in and oversight of youth online activity, and strong social norms among youth against disclosure of online behavior. Bullying youth creates an environment which can foster anti-social behavior.

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Resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process

adopted by the 2011 JCPA Plenum

President Obama has made resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a high priority in the first years of his administration, appointing former Sen. George Mitchell as a special Middle East envoy on his first day in the White House. Positive developments in the West Bank Palestinian political landscape - particularly the nation and institution building led by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad -- have opened up new opportunities to make progress toward peace. Provided that Israel's fundamental security requirements will be met in any final peace agreement, Prime Minister Netanyahu has expressed support for the establishment of an independent, demilitarized Palestinian state - a state with an internal security apparatus, but not an army that could potentially threaten Israel. While not making it a precondition for negotiations, the Prime Minister has insisted that Palestinian leadership recognize Israel as the Jewish state, the nation state of the Jewish people. In order to build confidence, the Israeli government imposed an unprecedented ten month moratorium on settlement construction in November 2009.

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Resolution on Prevention of and Response to Genocide and Other Mass Atrocities

adopted by the 2011 JCPA Plenum

Despite a collective commitment, the failure of the world community to stop genocidal violence and humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur and other areas of the world has raised the question of whether the United States and the international community have the political will and capacities necessary to deter or stop genocide and other mass atrocities. The U.S. Senate, in December 2010, unanimously adopted Concurrent Resolution 71, recognizing the U.S. national interest in preventing and mitigating acts of genocide and other forms of mass atrocities against civilians.

At the 2005 United Nations World Summit, world leaders agreed that “the international community, through the United Nations . . . has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian, and other peaceful means . . . to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. In this context, we are prepared to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council . . . should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations . . . .”

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