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Jewish groups join call to accept Syrian refugees into US

Organizations sign letter to Congress supporting Obama’s plan to allow in thousands of asylum seekers

Refugees aboard a dingy set out from the Turkish coast heading for the Greek island of Chios, October 31, 2015. (AP/Emre Tazegul)
Refugees aboard a dingy set out from the Turkish coast heading for the Greek island of Chios, October 31, 2015. (AP/Emre Tazegul)

WASHINGTON — Eleven Jewish groups are among 81 that sent a letter to Congress members urging them not to roll back plans to accept Syrian refugees into the United States.

“To turn our back on refugees would be to betray our nation’s core values,” said the letter sent Tuesday, as Congress began considering measures that would put a stop to the Obama administration’s plans to bring in 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year. “It would send a demoralizing and dangerous message to the world that the United States makes judgments about people based on the country they come from and their religion.”

Among the Jewish groups signing are the Union for Reform Judaism, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the National Council for Jewish Women, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee.

Calls, especially from Republicans, to stop the refugee plan have proliferated since the massive terrorist attack in Paris last Friday. There is evidence that one of the attackers may have slipped in with the refugees flooding Europe, though Germany’s top security expert said a passport carried by one of the attackers may have been a ploy to stoke fears.

A majority of state governors, most of them Republicans, have said their states will not take in the refugees, although states have little say in where refugees are settled.

Defenders of President Obama’s plan say the 10,000 refugees is a tiny fraction of the millions of refugees created by Syria’s five-year civil war, as well as the nearly 300,000 refugees that Europe is absorbing. Additionally, they say, while Europe, flooded with boatloads of asylum seekers, is taking in refugees on an ad hoc basis, refugees applying for US asylum must undergo months of vetting.

“We call on members of Congress to oppose any effort to limit the acceptance of Syrian refugees, just as we urge public officials and figures across the US to reject divisive and inflammatory statements that do not reflect our history as a nation founded by descendants of those who fled persecution in search of freedom,” said a statement by the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center.

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