USA: Barring refugees is an affront to global and Christian values
30 January 2017

“By freezing resettlement, banning legitimate refugees from seven countries, and giving second class status to Muslims, the President has created “alternative facts” about those seeking safety and a future for themselves and their families."

30 January 2017 - The Jesuit Refugee Service challenges US President Donald Trump’s Executive Order banning refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States. 

“President Trump’s Executive Order has undercut the values that make the United States a land of freedom and opportunity” says JRS International Director, Fr Thomas H Smolich SJ. 

“By freezing resettlement, banning legitimate refugees from seven countries, and giving second class status to Muslims, the President has created ‘alternative facts’ about those seeking safety and a future for themselves and their families. These decisions have global consequences for the protection of the world’s most vulnerable refugees. Xenophobia and fear distort the truth, and Friday’s Executive Order is fundamentally a distortion. JRS will continue to accompany refugees and forcibly displaced people throughout the world, and work with others to welcome those in need where the need is greatest,” notes Fr Smolich.

Last Friday, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA released the following statement. 

Washington, DC — The Jesuit Refugee Service USA expresses its deep opposition to provisions in Friday’s Executive Order from US President Donald Trump, titled “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals.” 

Among other objectionable provisions, the order:

• suspends the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days

• suspends indefinitely the admission of Syrian refugees

• reduces this year’s refugee arrivals from the anticipated 110,000 to 50,000

• proposes to give priority to religious minorities over others who may have equally compelling refugee claims

• suspends the admission of immigrants and non-immigrants from countries including Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.

These provisions fly in the face of the core American values of welcoming persecuted families and individuals who come to America to rebuild their lives in safety and dignity and to contribute to the richness of our communities. They also violate Catholic social teaching that calls us to welcome the stranger and treat others with the compassion and solidarity that we would wish for ourselves.

By proposing to discriminate among individuals with valid claims for our protection on the basis of place of origin or religion rather than on the criteria firmly established by U.S. and international law this announcement calls into question the worldwide standards of non-discrimination that are the bedrock of humanitarian response, just at the moment when we are experiencing the greatest displacement crisis since the end of the Second World War. 

Sadly, the targeting of these policies at refugees from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East has the effect of making scapegoats of some of the most unfortunate of our brothers and sisters, mistaking the victims of terrorism for terrorism itself. 

The adoption of these provisions by the United States during Holocaust Remembrance week, is indeed shocking, and cannot fail to be taken as an abdication of leadership by those nations who measure their actions against the example of generosity hitherto set by the United States.   

Earlier today Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, CSs.R., of the Archdiocese of Newark noted: “This nation has a long and rich history of welcoming those who have sought refuge because of oppression or fear of death. The Acadians, French, Irish, Germans, Italians, Poles, Hungarians, Jews and Vietnamese are just a few of the many groups over the past 260 years whom we have welcomed and helped to find a better, safer life for themselves and their children in America.  

“Even when such groups were met by irrational fear, prejudice and persecution, the signature benevolence of the United States of America eventually triumphed.

“That confident kindness is what has made, and will continue to make, America great.”

Please check on over the coming days for further information on the effects of the Administration’s actions, and advocacy to oppose it. 

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Giulia McPherson