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Jewish Groups Urge U.S. to Stop Repatriation of Haitian Refugees

February 10, 1992
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Mindful of the way some Jews fleeing Nazi Europe were denied haven as they approached U.S. shores, Jewish groups have strongly protested the Bush administration’s forced repatriation of Haitian boat people seeking asylum in the United States.

More than 1,000 of some 9,000 Haitian refugees given temporary shelter at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been forcibly returned to their politically volatile island nation since Jan. 31, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Bush administration’s decision to deny them asylum.

The American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and National Council of Jewish Women are all calling for a cessation of the forced returns.

Several Jewish groups are also backing legislation introduced in Congress that would provide temporary protected status for the Haitians.

The Bush administration maintains that the Haitians are fleeing mainly for economic reasons, rather than because of political persecution, and are therefore not eligible for U.S. refugee status.

But that has been disputed by Jewish groups.

The Anti-Defamation League said in a terse statement last week that the Haitians’ “flight from their native country is impelled by justifiable fear for their physical safety.” It urged the government to offer the refugees temporary protection.

Joan Bronk, president of the National Council of Jewish Women, observed in a letter to President Bush last week that the “continuing violence and terror” in Haiti “has led the U.S. to recall its ambassador — a clear confirmation of the extremely dangerous conditions” there.

“Certainly the lives and safety of the repatriated Haitians cannot be guaranteed,” she wrote.


“The United States, with its current diminished embassy staff, cannot effectively monitor the safety, of people forcibly repatriated,” Gary Rubin, director of national affairs at the American Jewish Committee, said in a statement issued Feb.3.

“To carry out the policy of involuntary return is a severe violation of our ethical and legal obligations,” he said. “We urge the government to cease the current misguided policy immediately.”

Similarly, Ben Zion Leuchter, president of HIAS, argued, in a statement issued Friday, that it is “an abrogation of the United States’ longstanding commitment to humanitarian values to return Haitians whose safety cannot be guaranteed in a country torn by political violence and unrest.”

He expressed concern that, with Congress in recess, the proposed legislation to grant the Haitians temporary protected status may not be adopted in time.

He urged the administration to halt the repatriation operation until Congress can take action.

The bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Romano Mazzoli (D-Ky.) and in the Senate by Sen. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) and Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.).

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