(CNN)President Donald Trump is commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day by slamming America’s door on refugees. It is a ghastly repeat of the terrible error when President Warren Harding signed the Emergency Quota Act, seriously restricting the amounts of immigrants and refugees admitted to the nation, America made in 1921.
Even in the peak of Holocaust, as countless political dissidents, homosexuals, Jews and others were exterminated, the US kept its doors close.
The Refugee Convention of 1951 originated in the ashes of the Holocaust to make sure that never again would the world turn refugees around with their executioners. How paradoxically terrible that by once again derailing America’s commitment to refugee protection, Trump has decided to observe Holocaust Remembrance Day.
History will look back with this executive order with shame. And Americans, who with a couple of noteworthy exceptions, have been so welcoming of immigrants, will look in terror. For many of American history, the United States continues to be a nation that is welcoming, and refugees have made it that much more powerful. This fundamental tenet of integration is under furious assault.
Why is this executive order even more heartbreaking is unnecessary could it be. Now, with greater technological tools at our disposal than at any given moment ever, immigrants are subject to extreme examination: repeated security tests by law enforcement agencies and numerous security, and multiple interviews, fingerprints computerized taken and kept.
To put it differently, refugees are already completely checked but, like so much else with Donald Trump, the facts don’t appear to matter. He needs “extreme vetting.”
Also, if America doesn’t take refugees, who’ll? A year ago, the United States just resettled 85,000. A number of other states host a lot more refugees than we do.
Nevertheless, it’s the manner we welcome refugees — as new Americans — that’s always recognized us. That is the way America credibly presents to the planet that refugees welcomed and needs to be protected. Trump is depriving America of the credibility. Other states will soon be also if America is terrified of refugees. Other nations will cease taking them also if we cease recognizing refugees.
More than 1,500 rabbis from almost every state in our great nation selected this month, the month of international Holocaust remembrance, to join HIAS by signing a statement of welcome for refugees. On the other hand, Trump observes Holocaust Remembrance Day by closing the door in America to refugees. This is, as they say in a shanda Yiddish, or embarrassment.
It’s proper right now to embrace the words of the great Jewish sage Rabbi Hillel to the refugee situation and Donald Trump’s “America First” slogan: “If America isn’t for itself, who’ll be for America? But if America is only for itself, what’s America? And if not now, when?”
An America which turns away refugees isn’t America. We forgot that during the Holocaust. Let us never forget who we are.