AFT and Jewish Labor Committee to Advocate for Welcoming Refugees

WASHINGTON —The American Federation of Teachers and the Jewish Labor Committee are teaming up to advocate welcoming refugees into the U.S., AFT President Randi Weingarten says.

Weingarten says this is necessary for two reasons: The world faces a refugee crisis not seen since World War II and because anti-refugee nativism has reared its ugly head – in the guise of fears that refugees may include terrorists – in the U.S. presidential campaign.

The Obama administration has committed to admitting 10,000 refugees from Syria. By contrast, Canada, has committed to admitting 26,000 Syrian refugees, and most have been allowed in or are process of being admitted.

“This is for us and it’s just the first step,” said Weingarten. Referring to Jewish Labor Committee President Stuart Appelbaum. She added: “Stuart and I talked many months ago about what we can do to help you have education” on the refugee issue and to challenge foes of refugees “with advocacy and passion.”

“We have to get into people’s minds,” to change them, Weingarten declared.  “We have to pierce the anger” on the issue, too, she noted.

“Right now,” the Republican contenders “have a narrative of scapegoating refugees and denying asylum,” Weingarten explained. “And we in AFT and the Jewish Labor Committee know what happens when we have been scapegoated. We become demonized.”

The panel at the AFT, including Shelly Pitterman, a top official of the UN High Commission on Refugees who has worked in Syria, made the point that the millions of refugees from that war are not terrorists, but are fleeing terrorists, particularly those of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Admitting refugees “would ensure they are not put back in the lands of their prosecutors” as happened in the 1930s when fleeing Jews were denied asylum and sent back to Hitler’s Germany, Weingarten told the panel.

Source: PAI