Trump's Narrower Travel Ban Doesn't Mollify Progressive Jewish Groups

'The language of the ban is slightly changed, but the results for refugees are the same,' says head of HIAS.

Demonstrators participate in a protest by the Yemeni community against U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban in Brooklyn, New York, February 2, 2017.
Lucas Jackson/REUTERS

WASHINGTON - A number of U.S. Jewish organizations on Monday came out against President Trump's new executive order on immigration, despite the changes from the previous one.

The new order is narrower than the last, which was struck down by federal courts in January. It does not apply to foreigners who already have a U.S. visa. The revised directive still bars nationals of Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen from receiving U.S. visas for 90 days. Iraq, however, has been removed from the list following pressure from the Pentagon and State Department, which pointed to its role in battling the Islamic State.

Calling it "effectively a Muslim ban," the Anti-Defamation League condemned the new order. "While some of the initial executive order has been revised, the message is the same: that Muslims and refugees who are fleeing for their lives are not welcome on our shores,” said the organization's CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. "To be sure, rigorous screening for everyone seeking to enter the U.S. is vital, but this order appears to be designed to exclude one religious group and is nothing less than a page taken from the anti-immigrant movement’s playbook. This is an appeal to xenophobia and fear."

The Jewish Reform movement's Religious Action Center published a statement, attributed to the center's director, Rabbi Jonah Pesner, calling the new executive order an "unjust refugee and immigration ban." The statement also said that "the notion that refugees who have already waited so long for safety and security could possibly wait any longer for resettlement is deeply misguided and ignores the dire circumstances faced by so many. This 120-day freeze of the U.S. refugee resettlement program will likely have tragic consequences for those who have already endured a lengthy vetting process."

Mark Hetfield, the CEO of HIAS, a Jewish organization focused on immigration and refugees, said that "the language of the ban is slightly changed, but the results for refugees are the same. Even for the thousands of refugees who have already followed all the rules, and have already been subject to extreme security vetting, President Trump will not allow them into the United States.

"There is nothing ‘temporary’ about leaving innocent families stranded and at grave risk while their government-issued security clearances expire, or crippling America’s domestic refugee resettlement infrastructure while fixing a system that is not broken."

Rabbi Jack Moline, who leads The Interfaith Alliance, said that “President Trump’s revised executive order is still a Muslim ban, and it's still bigoted and un-American. Despite efforts by the President and his administration to spin the executive order as a security measure, the truth is self-evident. Today's action is fueled by anti-Muslim bigotry."

Over on Capitol Hill, the most prominent Jewish-American legislator in the current Congress, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) did not tone down his previous criticism of the executive order following the changes that it went through.

"A watered down ban is still a ban," said Schumer in a statement. "Despite the Administration's changes, this dangerous executive order makes us less safe, not more." He added, "I fully expect this executive order to have the same uphill climb in the courts that the previous version had."