HIAS, the global Jewish organization for refugees, does not make it our practice to publicly comment negatively on political appointments. In fact, I am not aware of any instance of HIAS opposing a government appointment in the 135 years in which we have been welcoming refugees to the United States.
We cannot, however, remain silent on the appointment of Stephen Bannon as the Chief Strategist in the Trump White House. Under Mr. Bannon’s leadership, the Breitbart “News Network” has engaged in an extensive, persistent and aggressive campaign to vilify and dehumanize refugees and asylum seekers.
Founded as a Jewish refugee agency in 1881, HIAS and hundreds of thousands of our clients became all too familiar over the course of the 20th century as to how such dehumanization is the first step toward persecution. By definition, refugees have fled persecution in their home countries. We certainly do not want them to fear persecution once again in America.
Breitbart has maligned those who have fled Islamic terror as Islamic terrorists. The network even serves as a platform for a barrage of stories to sow opposition in local communities against those agencies and employers who offer refugees jobs and a chance at a new life. Mr. Bannon personally engaged in the campaign to vilify Syrian refugees for the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris last November 13, an effort which was based on a hateful lie, as no Syrian refugees were implicated in that attack.
The First Amendment permits Mr. Bannon to freely express and even build a platform for hateful and divisive opinions. He should not, however, be permitted to do so from a high perch inside the White House. If President-elect Trump is remotely serious about his promise to unify our divided country, he must urgently withdraw his job offer to Mr. Bannon.