Jewish Organizations Urge US to Meet Refugee Resettlement Goal

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Update: The original article was corrected on Aug. 14, 2019 to correct information regarding HIAS Pennsylvania signing the letter.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (Photo by Gage Skidmore, via Flickr)

On Aug. 7 — the same day that mass U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids took place across the country — 167 Jewish organizations nationwide sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“On behalf of the 167 undersigned national, state and local Jewish organizations and institutions below, we write to express our shared grave concern about recent reports that the administration is considering resettling zero refugees in the United States in FY2020,” the letter begins. “As Jewish organizations, we do not write today to convey our collective views on broader immigration policy, but we are committed to welcoming those fleeing violence, persecution, and war. We urge the United States to meet the resettlement admissions goal of 30,000 this fiscal year and return the Presidential Determination to historic norms for fiscal year 2020.”

Full text:

August 7, 2019

The Honorable Michael Pompeo
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20230

Dear Mr. Secretary:

On behalf of the 170 undersigned national, state and local Jewish organizations and institutions below, we write to express our shared grave concern about recent reports that the Administration is considering resettling zero refugees in the United States in FY2020. As Jewish organizations, we do not write today
to convey our collective views on broader immigration policy, but we are committed to welcoming those fleeing violence, persecution, and war. We urge the United States to meet the resettlement admissions goal of 30,000 this fiscal year and return the Presidential Determination to historic norms for fiscal year
2020.

We are in the midst of the worst global refugee crisis since WWII. The global refugee population reached a record 25.9 million in 2018. Yet the Administration continues to cut its refugee resettlement admission targets and prevent those already approved to resettle in the United States from actually doing
so. As a result, people fleeing for their lives with their families cannot find safety here.

The United States has historically distinguished itself as a beacon of hope and as a safe haven for those who most need it. For nearly 40 years, the refugee admissions target averaged 95,000 per year, with actual admissions averaging 80,000 refugees per year. Despite this, the Administration set the admissions ceiling to a historic low of 30,000 refugees in FY19. Furthermore, the U.S. fell behind Canada in 2018 as the top resettlement country, settling only 22,491 refugees. Resettling zero refugees in the U.S. in FY2020 would effectively gut the refugee resettlement program, violate our values as Jews and Americans, and abdicate the American promise of freedom and opportunity.

These actions – turning our backs on people fleeing for their lives – defy the proud promise indelibly inscribed on the Statute of Liberty. As Jews, we know all too well what happens when people fleeing for their lives have nowhere to turn. Our parents or grandparents, neighbors or community members once
faced a similarly callous and unwelcoming world, with fatal consequences. The Jewish community has a particular moral responsibility that compels our commitment to welcoming refugees.

We urge the Department of State, in partnership with the other implementing agencies, to restore our country’s refugee admissions cap to at least 95,000 for FY2020. The values of our nation and the safety and well-being of tens of thousands of refugees and their families depend on it.

Sincerely,

National Organizations:
ACC (the American Conference of Cantors)
ADL (the Anti-Defamation League)
Agudath Israel of America
Ameinu
American Jewish World Service
Avodah
B’nai B’rith International
Cantors Assembly
CCAR (Central Conference of American Rabbis)
Foundation for Ethnic Understanding
Goldtree Training
Habonim Dror North America
HIAS
International Rabbinic Fellowship
J Street
Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Jewish Labor Committee
Jewish Women International
Jewish World Watch
Keshet
Men of Reform Judaism
NCJW (National Council of Jewish Women)
NCSEJ
Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies
New Jewish Outreach
Orthodox Union
Rabbinical Assembly
Reconstructing Judaism
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Society for Humanistic Judaism
The Jewish Federations of North America
T’ruah
Union for Reform Judaism
Uri L’Tzedek
Women of Reform Judaism
Women’s Rabbinic Network
Women’s League for Conservative Judaism
Workmen’s Circle

Local and State Organizations and Institutions:

Arizona
Arizona Jews for Justice!
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Phoenix
NCJW Arizona Section
Secular Humanist Jewish Circle, Tucson

California
Bet Tzedek Legal Services
Community Shul of Montecito and Santa Barbara
Congregation Kol Shofar
Jewish Center for Justice
Jewish Community Relations Committee of Greater Santa Barbara
Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin, Sonoma, Alameda
and Contra Costa Counties
Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay
Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles
Jewish Family Service of the Desert
Jewish Family Services of San Diego
Jewish Family Services of Silicon Valley
Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara
Leo Baeck Temple
NCJW California State Policy Advocates
Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills

Colorado
Beth Ami – Colorado Congregation for Humanistic Judaism
Jewish Community Relations Council of Colorado
JEWISHcolorado

Connecticut
Jewish Community Alliance for Refugee Resettlement (JCARR)
Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven

Delaware
Jewish Family Services of Delaware

Florida
Beth Israel of Ocala, Florida
Congregation Beth Adam South Florida Center for Humanistic Judaism
Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services
Jewish Community Relations Council of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation
NCJW Sarasota-Manatee Section
South Florida Zionesses
Temple Beth Sholom

Georgia
Jewish Educational Alliance
Savannah Jewish Federation

Illinois
JCFS Chicago, Illinois
Jewish Community Relations Council of Springfield
Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago
Jewish Federation of Springfield
Mishkan Chicago
NCJW South Cook Section

Indiana
Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council

Kansas
Jewish Community Relations Bureau, AJC
Mid-Kansas Jewish Federation

Kentucky
Jewish Community Relations Council of Louisville
Jewish Family & Career Services of Kentucky
NCJW, Louisville Section

Maryland
Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation, Bethesda
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington

Massachusetts
Congregation Dorshei Tzedek
Jewish Community Relations Council, Greater Boston
Jewish Vocational Service (JVS Boston)
Massachusetts Board of Rabbis

Michigan
Detroit Center for Civil Discourse
Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC – Detroit
NCJW Michigan Section

Minnesota
Adath Jeshurun Congregation
Adath Jeshurun Hesed Committee
Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis
JHSUM
Mount Zion Temple
NCJW Minnesota Section
Shir Tikvah Congregation

Missouri
Central Reform Congregation
Congregation B’nai Amoona
Congregation Shaare Emeth
Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis
NCJW St. Louis Section

New Jersey
Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest
Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey
Livingston Celebrates Israel
Temple Emeth, Teaneck

New York
Buffalo JCRC
Congregation Beth Abraham
Congregation Kolot Chayeinu
Congregation Mount Sinai
Greater New York Labor Religion Coalition
Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee
Temple Beth Am
Temple Beth Zion, Buffalo
Temple B’rith Kodesh
Temple Chaverim of Plainview
Temple Shaaray Tefila, New York City
UJA-Federation of New York

North Carolina
Jewish Family Services of Greater Charlotte

Ohio
Cincinnati Jewish Community Relations Council
Congregation Torat Emet
JCC Grannie Group of Akron
Jewish Family Services, Columbus
NCJW Cleveland Section
Rockdale Temple

Oklahoma
Jewish Federation of Tulsa

Oregon
Beit Haverim
Congregation Beth Israel
Havurah Shalom
Jewish Federation of Greater Portland
Kol Shalom

Pennsylvania
Beth El Temple
HIAS Pennsylvania
JEVS Human Services
Jewish Family and Community Services (JFCS) Pittsburgh
Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg
Jewish Federation of Reading
National Council of Jewish Women of Pennsylvania
South Carolina
Charleston Jewish Family Services
Charleston Jewish Federation
Community Relations Council of the Columbia Jewish Federation
Tennessee
Beth Sholom Synagogue
Congregation Micah
Jewish Community Partners, Memphis
Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee
Memphis Jewish Federation
Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable
Temple Israel
The Temple, Congregation Ohabai Sholom

Texas
Congregation Beth Torah
Jewish Family Service Houston
Jewish Family Service of Dallas
NCJW Austin Section
NCJW Greater Dallas Section
NCJW Texas State Policy Advocates
Temple Shalom
Tiferet Israel Congregation

Washington
Jewish Family Services of Seattle
Kol HaNeshamah
Temple De Hirsch Sinai

Washington, D.C.
Hill Havurah

Wisconsin
Beth Israel Sinai
Coalition for Jewish Learning – Milwaukee
Congregation Shalom
Milwaukee Jewish Day School
The Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation

 

There were a substantial number of national organizations represented on the letter — Orthodox Union, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Jewish Federations of North America, for example — but local organizations were encouraged to add their names as well.

In the Philadelphia area, the National Council of Jewish Women-Greater Philadelphia Section authorized its state policy advocacy chair to sign the letter on its behalf. NCJW-Greater Philadelphia was joined by JEVS Human Services.

Lynne Jacobs, the Pennsylvania state policy advocacy chair for NCJW, wrote via email that the organization’s coalition partners — HIAS Pennsylvania and Nationalities Service Center — would be “severely impacted if refugees already in the ‘pipeline’ are blocked from entering” the United States.

“NCJW believes that we have a responsibility to welcome the stranger and, as an organization, we have spoken out on behalf of immigrants and refugees for more than 125 years,” Jacobs said.

As the letter to Pompeo notes, the global refugee population reached a record 25.9 million in 2018, which qualifies this era as being the “worst global refugee crisis since WWII.”

Kristen Rantanen, senior vice president of communications and public and affairs at JEVS Human Services, explained her organization’s decision to sign the letter as a simple extension of its long-held values; as she said, JEVS Humans Services has “been in the business of serving refugees since our founding in 1941.”

“We proudly continue to do that up to this day,” she said.

Rantanen noted that what concerns them most over the proposed cuts to the number of arrivals is that, whether refugees will be allowed to enter the U.S. or not, the conflicts in their home countries are ongoing. There are “ten of thousands of people being persecuted for religious or political reasons,” she said.

Still, she can’t help but anticipate further reductions to both the admissions target and actual admissions.

She also pointed out that, in the time between when the letter was sent and when she spoke with the Jewish Exponent, the Trump administration had announced that legal immigrants, if they have claimed public benefits in the past, would now find it much harder to remain in the U.S. legally.

“We do think America is still a place where people should be welcomed,” she said.

Though HIAS Pennsylvania did not sign on to the letter, Cathryn Miller-Wilson, executive director, said that it “is one, obviously, that we agree with.”

“We are extremely concerned, as is stated in the letter, about the administration’s failure to understand the critical role that refugee resettlement plays in addressing the problem of displaced persons and persecution,” said Miller-Wilson. “The program has been a strongly bipartisan one since its legal creation in 1980 and even before then, as part of the efforts made by all allied nations to learn from the mistakes made during World War II. It was agreed at that time that banding together to ensure the safety and resettlement of persecuted peoples was a moral obligation and also the most effective way to ensure the revival of decimated peoples and communities.”

The decision to reduce admissions, she continued, “not only ignores human suffering but also is adding fuel to a conflagration that is spreading.”

“These actions — turning our backs on people fleeing for their lives — defy the proud promise indelibly inscribed on the Statute of Liberty. As Jews, we know all too well what happens when people fleeing for their lives have nowhere to turn. Our parents or grandparents, neighbors or community members once faced a similarly callous and unwelcoming world, with fatal consequences,” the letter reads. “The Jewish community has a particular moral responsibility that compels our commitment to welcoming refugees.”

[email protected];215-832-0740

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