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Compassionate response
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Compassionate response

Jared Silverman’s commentary, “Regarding refugees, suicide pacts not required” (April 28), mischaracterizes the issue and underscores the very reasons the Anti-Defamation League continues to educate and advocate for a compassionate response to the refugee crisis.

By conflating refugees with migrants and immigrants, Silverman confuses the issues and undermines the grave danger today’s refugees face.  Refugees, by legal definition, are fleeing for their lives and can prove the danger they face, whereas migrants are people seeking to move from one country to another. Many of the 60 million refugees today are fleeing Syria, caught between ISIS’s unparalleled brutality and the barrel bombs of the Assad regime.

Silverman essentially argues that we should turn a blind eye to their suffering based on fear of terrorism. To do so, however, would be to repeat our  shameful past, in which America essentially shut its doors to Jewish refugees fleeing Nazism. Today we view the refugees of the 1930s and 1940s as  innocent victims, but at the time, anti-Semitism, as well as fears of communist infiltration and anarchy, stoked anti-refugee sentiment just as fears of terrorism do today.

Finally, Silverman conflates refugee issues in Europe with those in the United States. Whereas European nations have taken in refugees while they await screening, the United States has put up the highest hurdles for refugees before they can enter, including multi-year investigations by U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies. Refugee status is actually the single most difficult way to enter the United States. And this screening process works. With millions of refugees admitted to the United States since 1980, including hundreds of thousands admitted since 9/11, there have been no recorded terrorist attacks in the United States committed by refugees.

Our hearts are still heavy with recent horrendous terrorist attacks around the globe. The solution, however, cannot be to send those fleeing that same brutality back into the hands of terrorists.

Joshua Cohen
New Jersey regional director
Anti-Defamation League

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