National Security

Dems invoke Holocaust in plea to take refugees

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A pair of House Democrats is using the example of the Holocaust to press the Obama administration to allow thousands more Syrian refugees into the U.S.

Reps. John Conyers (Mich.) and Zoe Lofgren (Calif.) on Wednesday recalled the 1939 voyage of the SS St. Louis, which carried more than 900 German Jews hoping to flee the Nazis by heading to Cuba. 

The ship “sailed so close to the United States that passengers could see the city lights of Miami,” Conyers and Lofgren said in a joint statement on Wednesday. “But rather than welcome these refugees, the United States turned them away.”

{mosads}More than 250 were later killed by the Nazis.

“We should not repeat the mistake of rejecting those fleeing for their lives,” the pair of Democrats said. “The United States has long been a symbol of freedom and hope for the World’s most vulnerable. In today’s global refugee crisis, we must now act boldly to fulfill that promise.”

Conyers and Lofgren previously signed on to a letter signed by 70 of their colleagues asking the White House to allow 100,000 Syrian refugees to resettle in the U.S. by the end of 2016, as part of a broader plan to accept 200,000 refugees from around the globe.

That would be a dramatic escalation for the Obama administration. This weekend, after heavy pressure from some corners to allow more refugees, the administration said it would take in a total of 85,000 refugees next year and 100,000 in fiscal 2017, though it is unclear precisely how many will come from Syria. 

Of the 4 million Syrians who have fled the country since violence began there four years ago, only approximately 1,500 have been resettled in the U.S. 

The refugee issue is likely to come to the fore this week, when Pope Francis addresses a joint session of Congress on Thursday. Francis has pleaded with European governments to allow more refugees to enter their country, and may make a similar call to the U.S. 

Some Republicans have been wary of opening the doors to the refugees, worried that extremists with ties to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) might slip in among them.

Conyers and Lofgren called for Congress to push for the resettlement of refugees and “encourage private funding” to accomplish the goal.

“Additionally, as Pope Francis has urged, now is the time for churches, parishes, and houses of worship across the country to volunteer and bring their resources to bear in helping global refugees,” they said. 

Tags John Conyers Syrian refugees Zoe Lofgren
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