Igor Kagan, 28, was born in Ukraine, learned to tie his shoes in Italy, grew up in Los Angeles and chose to be an adult in Denver, so he knows a little bit about immigration.
“Everybody’s got a story,” he said. “Nobody just willy-nilly decides to uproot themselves and come here for no reason. It’s important for the system to be welcoming.”
Kagan is active with Bend the Arc, a national movement that pursues justice as a core expression of Jewish tradition.
“Jewish tradition is about liberation and love for humankind,” reads the organization’s website. “We believe in the dignity and inherent right of all people to live in a just, fair and compassionate society. As Jews immigrated to America, this belief was stowed in their luggage. … We are proud to continue living this legacy.”
The group is currently focusing its efforts on immigration reform, generally lining up in support of U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s work with the “Great Eight.”
“It’s a good start,” said Kagan. “We know that it’s still the very beginning, and it could end up entirely different.”
He feels it’s most important to get the “pathway to citizenship” aspect right in the legislation.
“This one is going to be difficult, but the most important thing, we feel,” he said. “Without it, the rest of it won’t really work. … The end goal is that we hope it doesn’t push people to go further into the shadows.”
To raise awareness of its work, Bend the Arc staged a series of “buycotts” July 30. The opposite of a boycott, the event urged supporters to patronize supportive businesses to show appreciation. It’s a concept that’s trending; there is even a cell-phone application to guide people toward everyday shopping that supports favorite causes.
“Our intent was to do something more positive,” said Kagan. “We wanted to show elected officials that small businesses care about immigration reform, and so do the people who spend money at small businesses. A lot of the work I’ve done has been adversarial. Sometimes you have to do it that way, but sometimes you can come up with interesting, innovative, positive ideas that achieve the same goal.”