On Wednesday December 14, HIAS President and CEO Mark J. Hetfield joined a panel discussion entitled, Confronting the Syrian Refugee Crisis: Putting Faith in Humanitarian Aid, at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
Speaking on the importance of communities of faith welcoming refugees to the United States, Hetfield explained that whereas “immigrants are coming to the United States, refugees are fleeing from something else, so they don’t have a natural constituency here that politicians will listen to.”
“They’ve got us,” he quipped, “nine agencies, six of which are faith-based.”
The event was moderated by Deborah Amos, international correspondent for NPR, and featured William Canny, Executive Director for Migration and Refugee Services at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Robert Carey, Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Anwar Khan, CEO of Islamic Relief USA.
During the hour-long conversation, the participants discussed the role that faith-based organizations play in the United States Refugee Resettlement Program, and the ways that the politicization of the refugee issue has changed their work. The panel also covered what U.S. assistance for refugees, including the resettlement program, may look like under the next administration.
“When 31 governors came out against having refugees in their states, I was very proud of the Jewish community’s response,” Hetfield told the audience.
He also addressed the anti-refugee backlash which has surfaced over the past year, adding, “We’ve seen this before. This is not the first time in history that this has happened, and this is one reason why my community feels this is such a priority.”