August 3, 2020
San Antonio Field Office
1777 NE Loop 410, Suite 1500
San Antonio, TX 78217
To whom it may concern:
As Jewish organizations representing millions of Jews of varying denominations across the United States, we write to express outrage at the detention of Nylssa Krysthella Portillo Moreno and denial of adequate religious accommodations while she is in custody. Our work to welcome all immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees including Ms. Portilll Moreno is inspired by the commandment va’ahavtem et ha-ger: we must love the stranger, for once we too were strangers.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that had claimed the lives of more than 150,000 people and swept through immigrant detention facilities, it is morally wrong to keep medically vulnerable individuals who pose no public threat in detention. Ms. Portillo Moreno (A072-407-044) , who came to the U.S. from El Salvador at age 8, is currently being held at the Laredo Detention Center and has faced health issues that leave her particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.
As Jews, we are also particularly troubled by reports that Ms. Portillo Moreno, who is Jewish, has been denied kosher food while in custody. Our commitment to religious freedom rights applies to detainees of all faiths. For observant Jews, keeping kosher is more than a list of do’s and don’ts. It is about reverence, adherence to religious tradition, and dignity. Failure to accommodate Ms. Portillo Moreno’s religious practice is unconstitutional as well as deeply troubling, and her resultant weight loss makes it a threat to her very life. In March 2019, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called on the Department of Homeland Security to launch an investigation after numerous reports surfaced revealing violations of detained immigrants’ religious freedom rights. As of this writing, we are unable to confirm whether one was actually launched. The denial of religious freedom to immigrant detainees is especially troubling given the fact that many such detainees are fleeing such persecution in their country of origin. The recent legal wrangling over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, has left immigrants like Ms. Portillo Moreno in jeopardy. As organizations inspired by Jewish values, we unequivocally believe that Ms. Portillo Moreno should be home in her community, where she can receive needed medical care, have access to kosher food, and be with loved ones.
National Council of Jewish Women
ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal
Bend the Arc: Jewish Action
Carolina Jews for Justice
Habonim Dror North America
Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action
Jewish Community Action
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Jewish Labor Committee
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Tivnu: Building Justice
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
Union for Reform Judaism
Women of Reform Judaism
The Workers Circle