The Anti-Defamation League vowed to “relentlessly” combat US President Donald Trump’s executive order barring Syrian refugees and citizens of seven Muslim countries from entering the US, a decision it called “cruel” and contrary to American and Jewish values.
In an executive order signed Friday, Trump halted the arrival of refugees for at least 120 days and imposed tough new controls on travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen for the next three months.
Since then, travelers from those countries have been stopped from boarding US-bound planes, triggering angry protests and detentions at airports.
“Yes, we need strict screening but our current system is sufficient in keeping America safe,” ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt said in a statement Saturday.
“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,” he said.
“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,” Greenblatt said in the statement.
The AJC on Saturday backed Trump’s right to impose stricter vetting, but slammed the “blanket” directives.
“President Trump, of course, is authorized to assert the sovereign right of the US to assure the integrity of America’s borders and the effective enforcement of the country’s immigration and asylum laws,” the organization said.
“Similarly, the President is right, we believe, to insist that refugees fleeing war, persecution and natural disaster, and seeking entry to the US, are thoroughly vetted to gain the maximum possible assurance that they pose no security or criminal risk to our fellow citizens,” it said.
“However, blanket suspensions of visas and refugee admission would suggest guilt by association – targeted primarily at Muslims fleeing violence and oppression. AJC regards such actions, contrary to international perceptions of a compassionate America and reinforcing anti-Muslim stereotypes, as both unjust and unwarranted,” the Jewish group said.
Announced on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Trump’s order immediately suspended a program that last year resettled to the US roughly 85,000 people displaced by war, political oppression, hunger and religious prejudice. Trump indefinitely blocked all those fleeing Syria, where a civil war has displaced millions of people, and imposed a 90-day ban on entry to the US from seven Muslim majority nations.
Also Friday, Trump issued a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day in which he vowed to combat the forces of evil, and called to “make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world,” but failed to mention Jews or anti-Semitism.
The absence of any specific mention of Jews or anti-Semitism was highlighted and criticized by the ADL, who called it “puzzling and troubling.”
But World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder on Saturday slammed Greenblatt for his remarks.
“It does no honor to the millions of Jews murdered in the Holocaust to play politics with their memory,” said Lauder.
“Any fair reading of the White House statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day will see it appropriately commemorates the suffering and the heroism that mark that dark chapter in modern history,” he said. “There are enough real anti-Semitism and true threats facing the Jewish people today. Our community gains nothing if we reach a point where manufactured outrages reduce public sensitivity to the real dangers we confront.”