Jews Dismayed by Court Decision to Back Barring Haitians from U.S.

Jewish groups expressed disappointment this week with the Supreme Court’s 8-1 decision upholding the U.S. policy of intercepting Haitian refugees at sea and returning them to Haiti without holding asylum hearings.

Haitian refugees have been fleeing the country since a military junta overthrew Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1991.

Many Jewish groups have been critical of American policies returning the refugees to Haiti. They cite Jewish concerns for refugees seeking asylum from persecution.

But the court decided Monday that refugees intercepted at sea were not entitled to privileges granted refugees under U.S. law.

The Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee were among the groups filing briefs in the case, Sale vs. Haitian Centers Council Inc., on the side of the refugees.

The Supreme Court’s decision “does not augur well for victims from other countries who will be fleeing oppression in the hope of finding sanctuary in the United States,” Gary Rubin, the AJCommittee’s director of national affairs, said in a statement.

“If President Clinton continues the policy of interdiction, which sends fleeing refugees back to Haiti,” Abraham Foxman, ADL national director, said in a statement, “he also needs to take tougher economic and political measures — in cooperation with other countries and with the Organization of American States — against the current repressive regime there.”

Also expressing disappointment with the ruling was Rabbi David Saperstein, head of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

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