JRS fights to uphold US values of welcome and freedom

Victims of war and persecution: children in Aleppo, Syria. JRS
Victims of war and persecution: children in Aleppo, Syria. JRS

Jesuits in the United States have recommitted themselves to the defence of human rights and religious liberty, saying that they are greatly disappointed by the latest Executive Order from President Donald Trump, known colloquially as the 'travel ban', which they have branded a "shameful policy".

Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in the USA says that this new order has been artfully reworded to remove some of the most obvious legally-objectionable provisions of the original order. However, it still arbitrarily asserts that the security of the United States demands extreme measures to prevent the entry of persons of certain nationalities into the US. The revised Executive Order bans the entry of travellers from six Muslim majority countries into the United States for 90 days, suspends the US refugee resettlement programme for 120 days, and slashes the number of planned refugee admissions by more than half.

Troubled and terrified

"Both orders severely limit the ability of the US to rescue suffering victims of war and persecution – the vast majority of them women and children - by denying them access to resettlement in communities eager to offer them a welcome home," says Fr Leo J. O’Donovan SJ, Interim Executive Director of JRS/USA. "This shameful policy flies in the face of American humanitarian values and does damage to our international reputation as a caring and responsible society."

JRS says it is responding to the needs of refugees by fighting to uphold the American values of opportunity and welcome. It is redoubling its efforts to provide help to refugees who wait in limbo in camps and settlements and its life-changing educational services, counselling, livelihoods training and emergency support are critical to refugees, whom JRS describes as "the most vulnerable among us".

"The world is deeply troubled, and many of our brothers and sisters are justifiably terrified," says Fr O’Donovan. "Our Catholic and Jesuit identity calls us to welcome the stranger and to approach different faith traditions and cultures with openness and understanding. We must not give in to fear. We must continue to defend human rights and religious liberty."