Jewish and interfaith organizations were largely critical after President Donald Trump on Friday, Jan. 27, signed a 120-day moratorium on refugee resettlement, a 90-day halt to entrance to the United States by citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations tied to terrorism, and an indefinite suspension of admission by Syrian refugees. For a rundown of the vetting refugees go through, visit atlantajewishtimes.com/2017/01/refugee-vetting-13-step-process.
Among the statements issued after the executive order:
- The Rabbinical Council of America and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America reaffirmed the principles of their joint statement from December 2015: “We call on all Americans to reaffirm that discrimination against any group based solely upon religion is wrong and anathema to the great traditions of religious and personal freedoms upon which this country was founded. … We recognize that the complex issues that face us in ensuring the safety and security from terror of innocents and free societies throughout the world need to be addressed but need to be done in sober and responsible ways. We call upon … the United States government to recognize the threats posed by radical Islamists while preserving and protecting the rights of all people who seek peace, no matter how they worship G-d.”
- The Zionist Organization of America praised Trump’s “humane order”: “This is a much-needed effort to address a key flaw with the U.S. immigration vetting process, pointed out by numerous top U.S. security officials during the Obama administration: the lack of information needed to properly vet immigrants and to keep ISIS from infiltrating the U.S.”
- B’nai B’rith International said enhanced vetting of refugees is already in place and urged the president to rescind the executive order because “a nation of immigrants should be more than sympathetic to leaving the door open for others seeking peace, hope and a better life.” President Gary P. Saltzman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin said: “While we acknowledge the very real threat posed by terrorists who aim to exploit our nation’s humanitarian instincts, a more nuanced and balanced approach to helping those seeking a safe harbor is clearly preferable, and more in keeping with America’s values, than the sweeping ban being imposed by the administration. Our country has a great, though sometimes imperfect, tradition of welcoming those fleeing oppression, persecution and unending civil wars.”
- The Jewish Council for Public Affairs is “deeply concerned about President Trump’s actions on immigration and refugees, and the callous decision to take such action on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. These pronouncements not only severely restrict immigration; they instill fear among existing immigrant populations that they are not welcome and may be at risk,” JCPA President and CEO David Bernstein said. JCPA Chair Cheryl Fishbein added: “As the daughter of refugees, I take this very personally. The United States currently has one of the most stringent vetting policies in the world and should continue this careful review. We are facing a severe international refugee crisis and cannot let our concerns about radical Islam undermine a core national purpose — providing a home for immigrants.”
- American Jewish World Service objected “in the strongest terms” to Trump’s order. “These policies violate the best traditions of the United States, international human rights law and our deepest Jewish values,” said Robert Bank, the president and CEO of AJWS. “We call on all Americans from every community to join us in speaking out against these policies, which will directly threaten the lives of thousands of people who desperately and urgently need sanctuary in our country. … We understand all too well what it means to deny safe harbor to persecuted people who are seeking refuge, and we believe we are at risk of returning to the days when the United States tragically acted with indifference to Jewish and other refugees from Europe during World War II.”
- HIAS, the global Jewish nonprofit that protects refugees, expressed outrage at the callousness of the Trump administration, particularly because the executive order was signed on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. “Donald Trump has abdicated American values and American leadership on welcoming refugees,” HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield said. “To deprive refugees of safe haven is to scapegoat vulnerable human beings and to confuse those who flee terror with terror itself. We can only pray that other countries do not follow Trump’s example of turning away people trying to flee genocide and persecution.”
- The National Council of Jewish Women said Trump’s action threatens the fabric of the nation. “Reducing the number of refugees allowed in the United States by more than half flies in the face of the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War, and pausing the refugee resettlement process for 120 days could ultimately add years of waiting for refugee individuals and families,” NCJW CEO Nancy K. Kaufman said. “Further, limiting refugees from predominantly Muslim countries — and vetting would-be refugees, immigrants and visitors based on their opinions and beliefs — are just the first of what we fear to be a series of policies that promote discrimination based on religion or national origin. By justifying its action based on the threat of terrorism, the administration stokes the fires of hate and vilification and endangers the lives of Muslims living now in the U.S.”
- The Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta, Interfaith Community Initiatives and Neshama Interfaith Center called on Trump “to rescind this abhorrent and unconstitutional executive order. Every member of Congress must denounce its provisions, including the imposition of a religious test for entry, and urge its immediate withdrawal. Every American citizen must take every possible action to oppose this violation of America’s values.”
- Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said: “History will look back on this order as a sad moment in American history — the time when the president turned his back on people fleeing for their lives. This will effectively shut America’s doors to the most vulnerable people in the world who seek refuge from unspeakable pain and suffering.”
- American Jewish Committee greeted the order with “profound concern” and made the following points: Refugees from nations in upheaval are “laboriously and intrusively vetted” in a process that takes 18 to 24 months; those from Central America are almost all women and children; the United States has an obligation to help refugees under the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention; in the 14 years ending in October 2015, 784,000 refugees were resettled in the United States, and three were arrested for planning terrorist actions (none of which happened).
- The organizations of the Conservative movement called on the U.S. government “to reject policy proposals that would halt, limit, or curtail refugee resettlement in the U.S. or prioritize certain refugees over others.”
- The Reform movement denounced “in the strongest terms the horrifying executive order on immigration and refugees issued late Friday evening by President Trump,” calling it “even worse than feared” and a betrayal of American commitments and Jewish values.
- The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities were among the organizations criticizing the order before it was released in its final form. “There are an estimated 65 million displaced people awaiting rescue, mostly in ‘terror-prone’ and Muslim-majority countries. What is not understood is that Muslims make up the overwhelming majority of victims of terrorism. Yet these are the very people we will be turning away,” the Reconstructionist organizations said. “As Jews who remember our ancestors’ experience and who look for inspiration to the Torah’s exhortation to ‘welcome the stranger,’ we cannot be silent while our borders close.”
- Bend the Arc Jewish Action issued a statement Jan. 26 criticizing earlier Trump actions regarding illegal immigration, sanctuary cities and a wall on the Mexican border, then followed up Jan. 30 with a statement critical of Trump senior adviser Steve Bannon that included this comment from CEO Stosh Cotler: “We are inspired by the spontaneous uprisings across the country in which the American people are protesting and demonstrating against the ‘Muslim ban’ and making clear that we reject the hateful, bigoted policies advocated by Bannon and Trump. American Jews, who recognize all too well the danger of turning away refugees who are literally fleeing for their lives, stand in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters in the United States and around the world. Our country must remain a beacon of hope and a refuge for those seeking safety from war and persecution. We call on all political leaders to uphold this fundamental principle by urging the Trump administration to rescind this horrifying executive order.”