The Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley opposes President Trump's Executive Order suspending the entry of legal immigrants and refugees, and expanding detention for immigrants and asylum seekers, from certain predominantly Muslim countries. We join the chorus of national Jewish organizations, including all four major American Jewish denominations -- Orthodox, Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist -- the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Anti-Defamation League, and the American Jewish Committee, who have issued similar statements in opposition to this Executive Order.
We are concerned about media reports which indicate that this Executive Order was prepared without full review within the Administration leading to confusion and erratic application of the order by government officials. Families, like the Assalis headed for Allentown, whose immigration entry to the United States was approved following years of review and due diligence, were turned away. The Executive Order has also impacted Jewish refugees from Muslim-majority countries despite completed paperwork following multi-year vetting by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Department of Homeland Security. HIAS, the former Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, reports that over 90 Jewish refugees from Iran entered the U.S. last year.
We agree that the United States must be concerned foremost with protecting its own citizens and borders; immigration security experts have expressed that this can be achieved through stricter enforcement of existing security procedures. Many Jewish Americans know firsthand the difficulties their relatives endured in trying to escape religious and political persecution abroad and resettle their families to a place where they could live in safety. We know the tragic stories of those who were denied access to the United States due to immigration bans of Jewish refugees in the 1940s. We believe the United States has a moral and historical obligation to create a welcoming environment for individuals and families looking to start a new life after suffering atrocities in their native countries. Laws that implicitly target specific religious groups should be avoided to the greatest extent possible.
The Jewish Federation system has advocated for more than 70 years on behalf of immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers. Our tradition states explicitly: "You shall not wrong or oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." Resettled refugees have consistently boosted the economy and enriched our culture and pluralistic ethos.
We stand with our friends and neighbors in the Muslim community who are concerned about the effect this ban will have on refugees suffering violence abroad. We respect the newfound feelings of fear and insecurity among existing immigrant communities.
We hope Congress, the Administration, and the judiciary will create policies which are equitably applied, enhance the complex issue of national security, and compassionately enable entry to those who legally wish to visit and live in the great United States of America.