Jewish and Civil Rights Organizations Respond to Trump’s Immigration Ban

On Friday, January 27, President Trump signed an executive order on immigration that ignited protests and condemnation from individuals and organizations around the country.

Signs at Philadelphia Airport protest. Photo by Talia Loeb.

Signs at Philadelphia Airport protest.
Photo by Talia Loeb.

The order, whose official title is Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States, specifically targets refugees, and in particular, individuals trying to enter the country from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Under the order, all refugees are banned from coming into the United States for 120 days, while Syrian refugees are banned until further notice. Even people with legally obtained visas are prohibited from entering the United States for 90 days if they are nationals from one of the seven enumerated countries. Initially, green-card holders from these countries were apparently banned too, but amidst the confusion that has ensued in the implementation of this order, John Kelly, the new secretary of Homeland Security, indicated that green-card holders would be permitted entry “absent the receipt of significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare.”

The backlash to Trump’s executive order has taken many forms, from airport protests to legal challenges to harsh denunciations from politicians, immigration advocates, actors, ordinary citizens and national organizations. For example, Wade Henderson, president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, responded to Trump’s order by saying:

President Trump rode a wave of bigotry into the White House and ushered in a new era of hostility against American Muslims. He campaigned as a demagogue and is now governing as a demagogue.

Banning or profiling people of faith is ineffective for our national security; it fans flames of bigotry and makes us all less safe. …

The administration should immediately cancel these actions, stop the bullying, and govern in a way that’s inclusive and actually makes us all safer.

The Reform Movement expressed a similar sentiment in the following quote from a statement issued by the leaders of the Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism:

The world is learning that under the Trump Administration, America does not honor its commitments to people or to the values that have been a source of strength and moral leadership since our founding. This executive order will give credence to those stoking the flames of religious hatred, making citizens of every nation on earth, including the United States, less safe for years to come. …

In the days, weeks and years that follow, we will work with our clergy, lay leaders, institutions and congregations to provide assistance and support to immigrants, refugees, asylum-seekers and others yearning for the refuge and opportunity for a better life that we know the United States, at its best, can provide.

In his statement on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO, focused on the plight of the refugees and the contradiction of the executive order with American values, saying:

History will look back on this order as a sad moment in American History – the time when the president turned his back on people fleeing for their lives. This will effectively shut America’s doors to the most vulnerable people in the world who seek refuge from unspeakable pain and suffering. …

These refugees are fleeing horrifying terror and unimaginable violence. To shut the door on them not only makes little sense, but it is cruel and contrary to the values of our country – a nation founded by refugees fleeing religious persecution and strengthened by waves of immigrants. More than most, our community knows what happens when the doors to freedom are shut. That is why ADL relentlessly will fight this policy in the weeks and months to come. Our history and heritage compel us to take a stand.

In his statement, Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, characterized Trump’s actions as marking “one of the most hateful days in our nation’s history.” Referring to Trump’s immigration ban and his plan to build a wall on the Mexican border, Goldstein continues, “Demonizing refugees and immigrants, and spending billions of taxpayer dollars to keep them out of our nation, will go down in American history as one of the most tragic deviations from our national conscience.”

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