Statement of Mary Meg McCarthy, Executive Director, National Immigrant Justice Center
As a human rights organization that has been entrenched in the U.S. immigrant rights movement for 30 years, Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) has seen both the best and the worst of America’s treatment of immigrants. We remain steadfast in our support for refugees and asylum seekers of all faiths in the wake of the anti-Muslim and xenophobic executive orders issued today by the president.
NIJC has been honored to represent hundreds of men, women and children who have fled to the United States to escape persecution and death, and courageously rebuilt their lives as Americans. They are our family members, classmates, coworkers, neighbors, and fellow citizens. The president’s efforts to smear refugees and asylum seekers as threats undermine our country’s identity as a beacon of hope for the persecuted. Trump’s actions, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, are an affront to millions of Americans whose patriotism is strongly tied to our belief that our country, founded by immigrants, welcomes people driven from their homes by tyranny and warfare. They also insult the ancestors of Americans descended from refugees.
Ben Weinberg, a member of NIJC’s Leadership Board and pro bono attorney, shared his perspective: “I am the child of an immigrant and a refugee. When my mother was 12 years old, her mother and grandparents put her and her brother on a boat from Berlin to America. My grandmother and great grandparents made this painful choice because they believed that the United States would protect my mother. My great grandparents were able to protect my mother, but they themselves were murdered in the camps. My family saw what can happen when the government labels entire groups of people as dangerous or undesirable. We say never again. Never. Not in Germany. And most certainly not in the United States of America.”
The executive order suspends the full U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for at least 120 days, and indefinitely suspends U.S. resettlement for refugees from Syria. The order also suspends all other immigrant and non-immigrant admissions to the United States for at least 90 days for individuals from Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and Libya. The order also may impact individuals from these countries who are present in the United States but are not citizens. For these individuals, NIJC has the following advice:
1) Consult with an immigration attorney before traveling outside the United States.
2) Individuals who already are outside of the United States and prevented from returning should contact an immigration attorney.
3) Individuals from one of the affected countries who have applied for immigration benefits may experience delays in the adjudication of their cases. These individuals also should contact an immigration attorney, as such delays may be improper and unlawful.
Refugees and asylum seekers are among the most vulnerable people in the world, but they also are among the most courageous. NIJC will continue to represent refugees and immigrants who seek relief provided under U.S. and international law, and we will challenge any efforts to unlawfully obstruct their access to protection.