Shortly before entering a synagogue and murdering 11 congregants in Pittsburgh, the gunman posted disparagingly about the organization HIAS. This is a Jewish humanitarian organization that is one of nine non profits in the United States that contracts with the US government to help resettle refugees. The gunman was apparently incensed about a caravan of migrants in Mexico, hyped by the president of the United States and his allies in far-right media, like Fox News. He somehow believed HIAS, and therefore Jews in general, were responsible.
Just over one year ago, the president and CEO of HIAS, Mark Hetfield, came on the podcast to discuss a recently re-imposed ban on travelers to the United States from several Muslim-majority countries, and also the sharp decrease in the number of refugees that would be resettled in the United States. HIAS joined a lawsuit seeking to overturn the travel ban.
In our conversation, Hetfield explained why he believed that the new travel ban was motivated by racist animus and Islamophobia — and why these moves were a sharp departure from America’s traditional role as a global leader in refugee protection.
Given the events of the last week, it is worth revisiting this conversation with HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield.