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Letter to the Editor

Record of immigrant integration excellent

All American Jews are familiar with the U.S. government’s shameful rejection of Jewish refugees during World War II.

It is less remembered now that one of the key justifications for this failure was a widespread fear that some of these Jews, even people who had been in Nazi concentration camps, would be saboteurs entering the United States to attack from within.

The column “Risks associated with Syrian immigrants is overwhelming,” published Aug. 11, applies the same logic to the Syrian refugee issue today.

It is certainly conceivable that a Syrian refugee who had been in a Turkish camp for years and vetted by the U.N. refugee agency and the State Department, who had not been identified as a target of concern in the database of any allied intelligence agency, and who had likely been bombed or chlorine gassed by the Syrian government could enter the United States to do harm, but there is no evidence of this to date. Although it is true that American intelligence cannot share information with the Syrian government, making this a prerequisite for refugee admittance would make about as much sense as requiring information sharing with the Nazis about Jewish refugees during World War II.

Although the number of refugees entering the United States is extremely low, the record of integration has been excellent thus far and significantly better than the very different, and in many ways more challenging, situation in Europe.

So many American Jews, leading rabbis and Jewish organizations have gotten involved helping Syrian refugees because as former victims of xenophobia we understand its dangers. 

The United States has an excellent process for refugee admittance and integration that can and should be improved, and organizations like HIAS are helping make that happen. Jumping on the nativist bandwagon at the expense of our Jewish and best American values is just not the way to do it.