U.S. Jewish clergy call on Trump to allow in asylum seekers

“The Jewish people know what it means to be turned away and to be denied protection,” the petition states. “As Jews we understand the heart of the refugee."

By
July 25, 2019 17:05
2 minute read.
A Mission Police Dept. officer (L), and a US Border Patrol agent watch over a group asylum seekers

A Mission Police Dept. officer (L), and a US Border Patrol agent watch over a group of Central American asylum seekers before taking them into custody on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas. (photo credit: JOHN MOORE/GETTY IMAGES/AFP)

A delegation of rabbis, attorneys and advocates went to Capitol Hill to deliver a petition to Congress members, signed by 1,400 Jewish clergy, to defend the legal right of asylum seekers in the US.

The petition, delivered on July 18, called for the government to take a moral stand against the manner in which the country deals with asylum seekers.

The petition was organized by the HIAS (the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) whose motto is, 'Welcome the stranger. Protect the refugee.' The non-profit organization was established in 1881 to assist Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe.

Ironically, the delegation met with congressional representatives just as the Trump administration was putting forward a ruling that would restrict access to the nation’s asylum system for anyone who did not seek protection from other countries before crossing the southern border.

The implications of President Donald Trump's policy shift could be that asylum seekers will be deported to their native countries, discouraging from attempting to enter the US.

The petition contained signatures from representatives of 47 US states.

Over the next few weeks, Jewish community leaders in over 20 states will present the HIAS petition to their representatives.

Nicolas Palazzo, a HIAS border fellow in El Paso who joined the delegation in Washington, discussed the harmful “Remain in Mexico” policy saying that the Trump administration need to employ a more humane immigration policy.

"The purpose of my visit was to dispel some of the myths and misinformation surrounding the border and the plight of migrants, who are lawfully seeking their protected right of asylum,” Palazzo said to HIAS. “The right of asylum and safe refuge is under assault, and now more than ever, it is absolutely critical that we bring an informed moral and legal perspective to the conversation on policy.”

“The Jewish people know what it means to be turned away and to be denied protection,” the petition states. “As Jews we understand the heart of the refugee, and the current actions of our government echo some of the darkest moments of our own history. Our concern does not only apply to the Jewish past, but to our present.”

“This country is a nation of immigrants; our story is one of immigration and travel from one place to another,” said Rabbi Elyse Wechterman, executive director of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, to HIAS. “We have an obligation to treat every person who comes to our border as created by God, with dignity and respect – and at the moment, our country is failing to live up to that expectation. So I’m here to bring the message that we need to do better.”

Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld of Congregation Albert in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said that his community has helped hundreds of asylum seekers by helping them organize their travels and directing them to their sponsor families or immigration hearings.

“It has been an incredible outpouring of love and commitment,” Rosenfeld said to HIAS. “We believe in justice... these are human beings, and we have an obligation to them and to ourselves to make sure that they are taken care of and get to where they need to be.”

Rebecca Kirzner, HIAS’s Grassroots Campaigns director, described the petition as “a powerful expression from the Jewish community,” and how it expresses the dedication of the American Jewish community across the spectrum in defending asylum-seekers' rights.


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