This is a guest post by Kayla, a student in Habonim Dror Camp Moshava’s brand new Bonimot Tzedek program. Bonimot Tzedek is a year-round program dedicated to the growth of high school students in the Washington DC region. Through leadership development (hadracha), social justice education, and community organizing skill building, participants will become powerful leaders and change makers in their local and Jewish communities.
In November, I had the chance to speak to about 30 members of the Montgomery County delegation to the Maryland state legislature, including Senator Jeff Waldstreicher and Delegate Marc Korman, the chair of the delegation. My friend Talia and I presented the testimony that our Bonimot Tzedek group put together under the guidance of Yael Horowitz.
We spoke about the Trust Act, which protects undocumented residents of our county from being threatened with deportation by ICE (the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency) when they are in contact with police.
This was important to us because, first of all, having a broken taillight shouldn’t be grounds for something as harsh as getting kicked out of the country where you live. Just as critical, without this law undocumented residents will be afraid to go to the police for help when they need it, or to work with the police when they could provide information. This would make everyone less safe.
I felt very empowered because I was given an opportunity to speak for others who are not necessarily able to do so for themselves. It also clearly made an impression on the legislators that youth had come to talk about their priorities, so I was also glad that we had come. I was surprised that, given it was my first major public speaking event, I wasn’t at all nervous or scared. It was actually a lot of fun. I would encourage other teens to speak up for what they believe in!
Given that the Montgomery County delegation will be critical to enabling this bill to pass in 2019 – it failed to do so last year — I hope that our testimony helps push them to think about this law and the people who will be most affected if it doesn’t pass. I look forward to working with my friends in Bonimot Tzedek to push for this bill and migrant rights more broadly throughout the year, and I can’t wait to see what we do next year!