Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, leader of the UK’s progressive Reform stream of Judaism, suggested in an interview published Sunday that US President Donald Trump’s immigration policies could be a steppingstone on the path to genocide.
Speaking to the Observer, Janner-Klausner said it was imperative that political leaders intervene to prevent further action against illegal immigrants in the United States.
“The numbing of empathy, the dehumanization of other people through the encouragement of disdain are documented stages in history that have led to atrocities and even genocides,” she said.
“What has happened on the US-Mexico border is a moment of reckoning as it points to a systemic toxicity in public discourse and action. This needs to be stopped now,” she added.
Trump on Tuesday defended his administration’s immigration policy and the forced separation of children from their parents at the US-Mexico border with language that critics said was reminiscent of the Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda that preceded the murder of six million Jews. In one tweet, he used the loaded term “infest” to reference the influx of immigrants entering the country illegally.
The US leader tweeted Sunday that the US “cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country.”
In a stunning about-face, Trump took executive action Wednesday to end the practice of separating migrant families at the border, the result of a “zero tolerance” policy towards those who illegally cross the border.
Trying to stanch the flow of tens of thousands of migrants from Central America and Mexico arriving at the southern border every month, Trump in early May had ordered that all adults crossing illegally would be arrested, and their children held separately as a result.
After images of children in chain-link enclosures sparked domestic and global outrage, the president ended the separation practice but has continued his hardline talk on immigration.
A 1997 landmark case known as the Flores settlement governs how children are handled in immigration custody and generally prevents the government from keeping them in detention, even with their parents, for more than 20 days. Trump is seeking to amend the agreement to allow for families to be detained indefinitely together.
Janner-Klausner also told the newspaper that she believes that Trump’s upcoming visit to the UK next month should not be canceled and that Prime Minister Theresa May should take the opportunity to express her concerns about US immigration policies.
“I believe that our prime minister should be meeting her counterpart, to convey to him in the strongest terms the depth of opposition that these policies have evoked,” said Janner-Klausner.
Twenty-six US Jewish groups signed a letter to US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen opposing the government policy of separating children from their migrant parents.
The letter, which was promoted by the Anti-Defamation League, calls the policy “unconscionable.”