“Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger — we were strangers once, too. My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too.”

— President Obama, November 20, 2014

In stark contrast, today President Trump is anticipated to sign executive orders that include:  

  1. Temporary ban on most refugees
  2. Suspension of visas for citizens of Syria and six other Middle Eastern and African countries
  3. Building a border wall with Mexico
  4. Enforcement actions against undocumented immigrants in sanctuary cities.

It’s now crystal clear the fundamental principles on which this country is built are under attack by President Trump.  As a Jewish American whose ancestors were immigrants to this nation in search of a better life, it is part of my DNA to seek to protect immigrant communities and assist immigrants in feeling welcome in their communities.

Some people say that immigrants are a danger to this nation, with a particular concern regarding Muslim immigrants. In fact, the majority of the immigrants to the United States today happen to be Muslim only because they are asylum seekers and refugees fleeing conflict zones from Muslim nations — Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, and many more (according to the UNHCR). 25% Lebanon’s total current population are Syrian refugees.  Such an incredible statistic bears repeating, one in four persons in Lebanon today is a Syrian refugee.  America, lead by this new administration is now turning its back on these and most other refugees in the world.

On Sunday, Mark and I participated in a day of service event with Repair the World and HIAS at the Schusterman Foundation, where we learned these facts and more about the current global refugee crisis.  Did you know that of all the groups entering the United States, refugees are subject to the most scrutiny of any group?  

In the United States, if you are deemed a “refugee” by the government, you must go through a 18-24 month vetting process before they can even set foot in the U.S., involving checks by DHS, DOD, FBI, and the National Counterterrorism Center. – refugees from Syria are subject to an additional layer of screening.

The definition of a refugee is a person who has been forced to flee their home country due to persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.  Think about it.   If your country wanted to persecute you, today, in 2017, based on whether you fit into one of these categories, how would you fare?

Here’s another staggering fact: of the 21.3 million refugees worldwide, the United States resettled only 0.42% in FY2014.  President Trump’s actions today seek to decimate even that pathetically low figure.

HIAS also reminded me that in 1939 the U.S. turned away 900+ passengers on the St. Louis making the journey to the US on visas and fleeing Germany. Many went onto parish in concentration camps.

In the aftermath of WWII, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed, which said all people have the right to seek asylum from persecution. In 1950, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was founded.  Again, President Trump’s executive orders threaten the dismantle the United States’ participation assistance in setting up these internationally-recognized frameworks for migrants.

CounterAct is working with organizations that actively engage to help alleviate the global refugee crisis and ensure that refugees are welcome and provided resources, such as HIAS.  We also seek to work to protect immigrant communities and ensure that all immigrants feel safe and welcome in America.  Needless to say, CounterAct plans to redouble our efforts as a result of these executive actions today.

What you can do:

    1. Call your Member of Congress and tell them that you oppose President Trump’s executive actions today, and that you want America to always welcome asylum seekers and refugees.
    2. Spread this article and encourage people to find out if their local community participates in refugee resettlement programs. If they do, ask them to call their local officials and express support for these programs.
    3. Attend events HIAS and other groups like the meeting “Speaking Out for Refugees” on Feb. 6 at 6:30 PM  at Sixth & I Synagogue, Washington, DC
    4. Sign this petition.
    5. Check out the websites for HIAS and the other refugee resettlement agencies in the United States
    6. Follow Counteract on Twitter for more updates

 

 

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