Jewish Groups ‘Disappointed’ Over GOP’s Stance on Refugees

Republican governors and presidential candidates came under fire on Monday by their Democratic counterparts and several Jewish organizations for suggesting to halt any effort of welcoming Syrian refugees into the United States, citing the fear of ISIS infiltrators, in the aftermath of the Paris attacks on Friday.

At least 18 governors — mostly Republicans — have said they do not want the 10,000 or more refugees – as proposed by the federal government – settling in their state. “The first and foremost responsibility of government is to keep its people safe,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Monday. “We are working on measures to ensure that Texans will be kept safe from those refugees.”

“I do not believe the U.S. should accept additional Syrian refugees because security and safety issues cannot adequately addressed,” Kasich, who is also running for president, wrote in a letter to President Obama Monday. “In light of what happened last week, our government should not continue to grant refugee status to individuals from any country who have no personal information in federal databases or official papers.”

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, also a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, took a step further and declared that the United States should not admit any refugees – not even “orphans under age 5.”

The statements, as the debate shifted from the war on terror to humanitarian immigration relief, were met with harsh responses from the Democratic side.

“Scapegoating an entire religious community and rejecting those fleeing ISIL’s terrorism and persecution is what the terrorists want,” former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley said in a statement. “We need to step up and act like Americans, in accordance with our principles. There are women and children dying and fleeing the same sort of carnage that was unleashed on the people of France. This is a time for American leadership, not a time for us to cower.”

Speaking to an audience of more than 7,000 at the Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center Monday evening, Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said, “Now is not the time for demagoguery and fear mongering. What terrorism is about is trying to instill terror and fear into the hearts of people. And we will not let that happen. We will not be terrorized or live in fear. During these difficult times, we will not succumb to Islamophobia. We will not turn our backs on the refugees who are fleeing Syria and Afghanistan. We will do what we do best and that is be Americans – fighting racism, fighting xenophobia, fighting fear.”

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) also came out with a statement saying it was “deeply disappointed” that in the wake of the terrorist attacks in France, the governors have locked their doors during this humanitarian crisis.

“This country must not give into fear or bias by turning its back on our nation’s fundamental commitment to refugee protection and human rights. Now is precisely the time to stand up for our core values, including that we are a proud nation of immigrants,” ADL’s national director Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement.

“The current refugee crisis in Europe is the worst since World War II. The Jewish community is particularly affected by the images of men, women and children forced to flee their homes only to find they are unwanted anyplace else,” he added.

In fact, it was pointed out, that a Gallup Poll from Nov. 22, 1938, nearly two weeks after Kristallnacht, showed that 72 percent of Americans were opposed to the idea to allow a larger number of Jewish exiles from Germany to come to the United States to live. Results from another poll in January 1939 — well after the events of Kristallnacht — showed that 61% of Americans said they would not take in 10,000 German Jewish refugee children.

“Of course, the United States must continue to rigorously screen refugees to ensure that terrorists are not disguising themselves as refugees to gain access to resettlement. But as a rule, refugees do not bring terror, they flee terror. And at this tragic time in human history, where there are more refugees and displaced persons than at any time since the Second World War, we must take care to protect refugees and asylum seekers, not scapegoat them,” Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS, the global Jewish nonprofit that protects refugees, said in a statement. “We at HIAS are saddened to see politicians citing these tragic events as a reason to put safe haven further out of reach for refugees. The world needs to stay focused on fighting terrorism and hatred, not on building walls of brick as well as paper to keep refugees out.

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