We’ve Seen This Before

February 01, 2017
By Avi Rose

We have all seen the chaos and suffering already caused by the president’s Executive Order suspending refugee arrivals for 120 days and barring many immigrants from entry into our country. We have also seen the massive groundswell of opposition to these policies, including from a broad range of Jewish organizations, rabbis, and individual American Jews. Our opposition is grounded in our religious, moral, and humanitarian commitments, along with our own history of seeking refuge and far too often having the door slam shut.

We at JFCS East Bay are monitoring the situation very closely. We had already accepted cases for many people in the refugee pipeline, some of whom were to reunite with their families as soon as mid-February. These refugees include a gay Iraqi couple who escaped severe persecution and were hoping to rebuild their lives here; an elderly Iranian man trying to join his family already in the U.S.; and many Afghans with Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs), people who risked their own lives working as translators for the U.S. military and now need to flee their homeland as a result. All are now on hold; some may never be permitted to come here.

All these people–and tens of thousands more–need us to raise our voices on behalf of refugees and against the Executive Order. We are particularly holding out hope for the Afghan SIVs, who have significant support from veterans and others on a bipartisan basis; we believe that forceful advocacy efforts will enable them to join us in our community.

For all of you who wish to take action, here are some we recommend:

  • Tell your Senators and Representative to oppose the Executive Order. Even if you think they already agree with you, they need to hear from as many constituents as possible in order to fully understand the depth of our concern. Calling is best, but emails do work as well. The main Congressional switchboard is (202) 224-3121.
  • Participate in community events in support of refugees. This Friday, February 3 at 12:30pm, the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County is sponsoring Ring of Solidarity at the Walnut Creek Islamic Center. After an interfaith program, participants will circle the mosque in solidarity. And on Saturday, February 4 at 4pm there will be a large #NoBanNoWall demonstration at UN Plaza in San Francisco.
  • Join JFCS East Bay on Facebook to stay informed about opportunities for action and to hear how we are supporting refugees and immigrants in the East Bay. And when you do your own social media posts, amplify your support for refugees by using the #NoBanNoWall and #RefugeesWelcome hashtags.
  • Sign up for emails from our partner HIAS to get updates on national actions.
  • Jewish Community Action for Refugees is taking place in New York on Sunday, February 12, with possible additional actions around the country. Stay tuned for more information.
  • Continue to support our agency’s efforts to assist refugees already here with us and, hopefully, refugees who will join us in the future.

Finally, thank you for your many expressions of concern and support for the refugees and immigrants we serve. We feel deeply fortunate to be part of a community that is resolute about standing up for our fundamental values and putting them into action. Now more than ever, we must be vigilant, bold, and persistent.

Joining you in hope and determination.


One additional note: The Executive Order is allegedly about safety and security, though it will actually diminish both. You might be interested in learning about the existing refugee vetting process, which many knowledgeable people already characterize as “extreme vetting.” Click here to see a detailed infographic of the many steps taken before refugees are admitted into the country.