President Trump’s Action on Refugees an Affront to American and Jewish Values

January 27, 2017

President Trump’s decision to suspend the US refugee program is a profound affront to our values as Americans and as Jews.

Especially troubling is the imposition of new rules that effectively shut America’s doors to Muslims fleeing war and other hardships. These measures go against the deepest traditions of the United States and condemn thousands of innocent people to unnecessary suffering without doing anything to enhance US security.

J Street stands with the many organizations and tens of millions of citizens opposing these measures. Our conscience, our values and our own history, including the personal histories of many of our members, impel us to speak up against this grave transgression of American values, as embodied by the words engraved on the Statute of Liberty.

The fact that President Trump’s order appears designed to specifically limit the entry of Muslims evokes horrible memories among American Jews of the shameful period leading up to World War Two, when the United States failed to provide a safe haven for the vast majority of Jews in Europe trying to escape Nazi persecution. Most ultimately perished in the Holocaust. That episode remains a blot on the conscience of the United States. It is a terrible irony that today, the same day on which this order is to be signed, is also International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Even before President Trump signs this order, the US record on refugees in recent years is far from stellar. This nation, the richest on earth, took in just under 70,00 refugees in 2015, rising to an estimated 84,000 last year.  By contrast, the European Union plus Norway and Switzerland accepted 1.3 million refugees in 2015. The total number of displaced people in the world stands at around 60 million, including 12.5 million Syrians.

Much attention has been focused on Syrian refugees, yet the fact is that the United States accepts desperate and needy people from around the entire world. In 2015, they included around 22,500 from Africa, 18,500 from East Asia, over 2,300 from Europe and 2,000 from the Caribbean. Around half of the refugees who came to the United States last year were Muslim, including around 12,500 Syrians.

All of the refugees who come here undergo extensive screening and security checks. Contrary to President Trump’s assertions, there is no evidence that they pose a security threat. An October 2015 investigation by The Economist found that of almost 750,000 refugees who have been admitted to the United States since the attacks of 9/11, only two had been arrested, both Iraqi. They had not planned an attack in the United States but had aided al-Qaeda at home.

The United States has always been a beacon for those in the world undergoing persecution and throughout its history has provided a new home for countless millions. We sincerely hope the effect of these needless and unjustified measures is temporary and that our nation resumes its historic role.

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