HIAS Mourns Passing of Senator Edward Kennedy, Champion of Refugee and Immigrant Rights

Posted on Wed, Aug 26, 2009 at 16:19 pm

(New York, NY) – HIAS, the international migration agency of the American Jewish community, today joins our fellow Americans in mourning the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy.

Throughout his lifetime of public service, Senator Kennedy fought to protect refugees fleeing persecution and to welcome newcomers from around the world to join in America’s future. His leadership on the 1965 immigration legislation ended our nationality-based quota system – in part a long-due response to the tragic consequences of the immigration quota acts of 1921 and 1924 that prevented so many European Jews from escaping Nazism.

HIAS and the American Jewish community also joined forces with Senator Kennedy in his efforts to enact the Refugee Act of 1980. Thanks to this crucial piece of legislation, nearly 400,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union have been resettled in local communities throughout the United States. In recent years, Senator Kennedy again stood up to call for an end to our broken immigration system and the scapegoating of immigrants – both legal and undocumented – for our nation’s problems.

Gideon Aronoff, President & CEO of HIAS, described Senator Kennedy’s leadership over the years as “essential in helping our country fulfill the commitment that persecuted Jews and other refugees would not be abandoned, but would be rescued, resettled, and offered new lives in America.

“A vital champion for a pluralistic, humane, prosperous, and secure America, no member of Congress has fought harder than Senator Kennedy for real and comprehensive immigration reform. He will be deeply missed, but Senator Kennedy’s memory will remain a blessing to this country and the world, even as his passion for America and for immigrants serves as a rallying cry that we must see this struggle through to a successful conclusion.”