Like all Americans of conscience, we are crushed and ashamed at the images and videos of Haitian refugees––hungry, exhausted, dehydrated, barefoot, desperate for a better future––being hunted and whipped by U.S. border agents under the Del Rio International Bridge. Weary children lay in the arms of their mothers and fathers as they sleep on cardboard, and dwindling access to food and water combined with the desert heat is exacerbating the crisis. These are human beings seeking asylum in the United States, and whether they stay here or not, our treatment of them says much, much more about us as Americans than it says about them.
As Jews, we know too well the pain of flight. We cannot look past the fact that this crisis is unfolding during Sukkot, a holiday commemorating the Jewish exodus from Egyptian slavery during which Jews had to live under temporary shelters on their pilgrimage to refuge in the promised land, Zion.
In Biblical times and for thousands of years afterward, Jews were accustomed to the vulnerability of living under repressive regimes in times of systemic powerlessness. As Zionists, we commit to the belief that every human being is entitled to a place to call home, a place to be safe, a place to know one’s children can have a future. In the gut-wrenching scenes from Texas, we recognize our own past. Thousands of refugees from Haiti have fled their homeland in search of liberty and safety for themselves and for their children. On their faces, we see not just their pain and trauma, but our own histories. We see our own relatives crowded into train stations and onto boats, desperate to leave behind the shadow of violent oppression. Those of us who survived found refuge in Israel and the United States. It is our moral duty to honor our past by fighting for that opportunity for others.
A central tenet of the Jewish tradition is to welcome the stranger. It is our duty as Jewish Americans to ensure that these Haitian refugees are treated with dignity and compassion—and welcomed with open arms, not callously confined and deported without processing.
To confront this humanitarian crisis, Zioness calls upon our government to:
1) Secure the safe and orderly processing and resettlement of vulnerable Haitians refugees. People have a human right to seek asylum when they are fleeing persecution, and the United States will never live up to its ideals when it denies people the right to make their case.
2) Thoroughly investigate the despicable treatment and abuse of these refugees by border agents, and immediately terminate those who present a threat to the well-being of vulnerable refugees at our nation’s borders.
3) Prioritize robust immigration reform legislation to ensure the safe transition of refugees and migrants coming to the United States in pursuit of liberty, safety, and opportunity.
The United States claims to be a global beacon of liberty; we claim to support and uplift huddled masses fleeing crisis. Our country is not living up to its ideals today.