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Jewish groups decry major US cut in refugee admissions

HIAS, Reform movement lambaste new ceiling as ‘un-American, shameful’

Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, November 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, November 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

JTA — The Reform movement and HIAS, the leading Jewish immigration advocacy group, have decried the Trump administration’s new restrictions on refugees as a moral abdication.

The Trump administration on Thursday slashed the ceiling on refugee admissions to 18,000 next fiscal year from 30,000 this year. The ceiling was 45,000 in the previous year.

An executive order also allowed states and local authorities to deny entry to refugees.

“This order is in effect a state-by-state, city-by-city refugee ban, and it’s un-American and wrong,” HIAS President Mark Hetfield said Friday in a statement. “Is this the kind of America we want to live in? Where local towns can put up signs that say ‘No Refugees Allowed’ and the federal government will back that?”

Rabbi Jonah Pesner, who heads the Reform’s Religious Action Center, also expressed his dismay in a statement.

“This administration is shirking its responsibility and flouting its leadership role on the world stage,” he said. “The pairing of this shamefully low figure with an executive order allowing states and localities to veto resettling refugees only further abdicates our country’s moral responsibility. We urge state and local officials to strongly and proactively voice their support for refugee resettlement in their communities.”

Trump administration officials have said the backlog in asylum and refugee applications have forced them to slash the number of eligible refugees. They also have depicted permission to local authorities to reject refugees as a means of streamlining refugee settlement.

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