Refugee Resettlement Update – 2/3/17

One week ago when President Trump was signing the executive order halting the entire refugee resettlement program for 120 days and indefinitely suspended refugees from Syria and put a travel ban on anyone coming to the U.S. from seven majority Muslim countries for 90 days, members of the JSS staff were meeting with several JSS volunteers who are from Syria and have provided significant help in the resettlement effort in Madison. These families who live and work in Madison have been extremely generous with their time and resources in helping us and helping the new Syrian refugee families. While they themselves are not current refugees, they are affected by the order. One volunteer, a Syrian born physician, shared his concern that his current green card application will be denied and that he doesn’t know what will happen to his elderly father who is in Madison and has applied for asylum.

This story and the many other stories we are hearing make us ever more determined to continue  to advocate against these extreme and discriminatory measure.

The three families we have brought to Madison are adjusting to life here, beginning English classes, and the adults start full-time jobs next week. This week, our most recent arrivals courageously shared their story on the news. We continue to work every day to support these families to assure that they are successful in their transition.

Jewish Social Services had been previously notified that two more Syrian family and one Eritrean family were scheduled to come to Madison by April. Presumably, they had heard that they were going to be leaving the refugee camps in Jordan and Ethiopia to come here. These arrivals have been halted. It is heartbreaking to know that families who have waited so long, who finally had completed the arduous two plus years vetting process, and had news that they would have a secure home, will not be coming. We need to do everything we can to keep our program intact as we wait for the results of lawsuits and legislative battles, so that we are ready to welcome these parents and children when they do arrive.

The ban affects not only many innocent people but also has severe effects on agencies like JSS who are doing refugee resettlement work. Federal dollars will cease to be allocated to agencies during the ban despite the fact that we continue to support refugee families. We need your help today to continue to do this vital work.

This Shabbat we will read the portion in the Torah that describes the Israelites’ liberation from Egypt. The portion gives the commandments to celebrate Passover and remember the exodus as if it happened to us in our own day. JSS, through its actions of resettling refugees, is a living out the commandment to remember that we were once strangers and that we must care for the stranger in our midst.

Please consider giving a gift to support JSS’s work that puts Torah into action and that gives the Jewish community of Madison an opportunity to do their small part in addressing the global refugee crisis.

Shabbat Shalom.

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