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More than 1,000 Jewish Clergy: Ensure Refugees and Asylum Seekers Are Welcome in the United States

SILVER SPRING, Md. — As the Biden administration begins to repair the damage done over the past four years to the immigration system in the United States, HIAS, the international Jewish humanitarian organization for refugees and asylum seekers, is sharing the views of more than 1,100 members of the Jewish clergy calling on the administration and Congress to ensure long lasting protections for refugees. 

In a letter to members of Congress, more than 1,100 rabbis and cantors representing many streams of Judaism called for all elected officials to urgently address the policies of the last administration, which have caused enormous harm to refugees and asylum seekers including the “Remain in Mexico" policy which forced people to wait in dangerous border cities for their case to be heard.

The letter to lawmakers reads in part:

"These policies almost obliterated the U.S. refugee resettlement program and asylum system. They have denied basic human rights to countless people, including at the U.S.-Mexico border. Addressing this damage will take much more than a simple reversal of policies: it will take focused attention on reforming, reinventing, and modernizing our refugee and asylum protection systems, with the goal of treating each person with fairness and compassion…

"We pledge to be your partners as the United States begins to welcome refugees again. As Jewish leaders, many of us have traveled to the border to bear witness, we have protested outside of airports and detention centers, we have built local coalitions and organizations, we have educated our communities and our youth, and we have made our voices known to elected officials at all levels.”  

In its work to protect refugees, HIAS has taken the Trump administration to court to challenge its discriminatory policies, convened members of clergy to visit the border and bear witness, brought hundreds of advocates to meet with elected officials on Capitol Hill and in their home districts, and convened advocates at semi-annual Jews for Refugees assemblies and its annual Refugee Shabbat campaign for congregations around the world to voice their support for refugees.

“The Torah urges us to both welcome the stranger and pursue justice; so we are taking this message to those who have been newly elected or reelected,” said Rabbi Rachel Grant Meyer, rabbi-in-residence at HIAS. “The American Jewish community has been clear, we believe that our country should be a place of welcome and safety to those who have been forced to flee. Policymakers should know that as they begin to craft and enact policy that protects refugees and asylum seekers, Jews are with them. After all, our people were refugees too.” 

HIAS recently celebrated a victory in HIAS v. Trump, where a federal court ruled that states and localities cannot opt out of refugee resettlement entirely. HIAS also welcomed the executive order from President Biden ending the Trump administration’s discriminatory Muslim Ban. 

The full text of the letter and a searchable list of all signers can be found hias.org/clergy2021. Jewish clergy who wish to become signatories should visit https://www.hias.org/clergy2021-signup.

Asylum

Jewish Values and History

U.S. Refugee Admissions Program