Muslim, Jewish leaders raise Trump entry ban in congressional meetings

Muslim Jewish Advisory Council

Farooq Kathwari, left, and Stanley Bergman, left, co-chairing a meeting of the Muslim Jewish Advisory Council on Capitol Hill, Feb. 2, 2017. (Ronald Sachs)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Muslim and Jewish leaders shared concerns with lawmakers in Congress about President Donald Trump’s recent orders banning entry to refugees.

The lobbying day Wednesday for the Muslim Jewish Advisory Council was planned before November’s election and was meant to focus on expanding hate crimes laws in the United States.

But it was Trump’s executive order, which has created chaos at airports, ports and U.S. embassies around the world, which featured prominently in the group’s summary letter.

“We support the deep concerns with the President’s Executive Order of January 27 on refugee policy expressed by many members of Congress both Republicans and Democrats,” said the statement posted Wednesday as an open letter to Congress. “We are concerned with any bar on refugee or other immigration to the United States based on one’s religion.”

The refugee issue also came up in meetings that the 36 Muslim and Jewish leaders had with lawmakers. Trump banned entry to visitors from seven predominantly Muslim nations for 90 days and suspended entry of refugees for 120 days.

The leaders met with representatives of both parties. Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Orrin Harch, R-Utah, co-hosted a reception for the group.

Otherwise the letter’s focus was on hate crimes, which is the issue that united the leaders when the group, an initiative of the American Jewish Committee, was first convened last year.

“It is imperative that Congress work to strengthen our country’s response to the increase in hate crimes, in particular by exercising its oversight responsibilities so as to ensure that the Justice Department maintains, and heightens, its work with state and local officials on hate crimes, and prosecutes such crimes at the federal level where necessary,” the letter said.

Stanley Bergman, the CEO of Henry Schein, a health care products supplier, and Farooq Kathwari, president and CEO of Ethan Allen, a furniture company, are co-chairs of the council.

Members include Norm Coleman, a former Republican senator from Minnesota; Joseph Lieberman, a former senator from Connecticut who was the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2000; Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, the executive vice president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly and Daisy Khan and Eboo Patel, Muslim Americans active in interfaith outreach.

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