Congregation Beth Israel to host info session on threat to eliminate refugee visas

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The Congregation Beth Israel Social Action Committee will host a community information session, “Turning Our Backs on Refugees: Why Jews and Others Must Oppose Reduced Quotas,” to call out current federal efforts to gut the United States’ traditional role as a haven for desperate refugees fleeing war, famine, and oppression.

Harriet Kuhr, executive director of the International Rescue Committee in Charlottesville, will catalog the numerous ways in which the Trump administration is systematically dismantling our humanitarian lifeline for the world’s most vulnerable people within the context of our country’s history of refugee resettlement.

The event on Sunday at 3 p.m. is free and open to the public.

The following local advocacy groups (and the U.S. Census Bureau) will have representatives present to answer questions and provide information about how community members can support their work on behalf of refugees:

  • Charlottesville-area Immigrant Resource and Advocacy Coalition (CIRAC)
  • Cville Immigrant Freedom Fund (CIFF)
  • IMPACT, International Neighbors, International Rescue Committee (IRC)
  • Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC), Literacy Volunteers
  • Never Again Action, Sin Barreras
  • Welcoming Greater Charlottesville

Attendees will have the opportunity to sign postcards to legislators urging action to support refugees.

“The IRC in Charlottesville has welcomed more than 4,000 refugees since opening its doors in 1998, without any significant controversy or problems” said Kuhr. “The United States welcomed 85,000 refugees in program year 2016. This year the ceiling for our entire country is set at just 18,000 —  the lowest it’s ever been in the history of the program, despite humanitarian crises raging in many parts of the world.”

Russ Linden, CBI’s event co-organizer and chair of Welcoming Greater Charlottesville, notes: “Refugees are people fleeing danger in their home countries, and we’re about to stop admitting them; that’s an attack on our country’s core values (as well as losing out on the very positive contributions they make to our economy and communities). From the mid-1980s until 2017 our country resettled 70,000-110,000 refugees per year, offering them the same freedom, safety, and a better life for their kids that many of our ancestors sought. There’s a bill in Congress to significantly raise the refugee ceiling, and we need to support it.”

This is the first 2020 event in the Congregation Beth Israel Social Action Committee’s ongoing series of refugee- and immigrant-focused community programs. Rabbi Tom Gutherz will provide introductory remarks on the Jewish tie-in to the refugee cause.

The next program in the series, on March 1st, will feature a representative from the US Census Bureau warning of the dangers of undercounting vulnerable communities.


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