Would your Jewish grandparents pass Donald Trump’s “extreme vetting” for potential immigrants to America? Would their country of origin fall under those “most dangerous and volatile regions of the world” from which immigration to the United States should be barred? Would they pass the bar of “those who share our values?”
For at least one pro-immigration Jewish group, Trump’s proposed policy, laid out in a Youngstown, Ohio speech Monday, hit a bit too close to home.
“Not that long ago, Jews who resettled to the United States hoping simply to build a life in freedom and safety with their families, were met with suspicion and mistrust,” said Melanie Nezer, vice president of policy and advocacy at HIAS. “So for the American Jewish community, the thought of barring a refugee family because of their religion or home country is simply unpalatable.”
Trump’s plan would temporary suspend immigration from “some of the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism.”
This vague definition would include largely Muslim and Arab countries, but it also leaves many unanswered questions: Would immigration from Israel, a country clearly located in a “volatile region” also be suspended? And what about allies of the United States coming from war torn countries, such as the Kurds fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq? Would immigrants from Egypt and Jordan, two countries mentioned favorably by Trump, be included in this temporary ban?
In his speech, Trump introduced a new element to his immigration policy. He called for an “ideological screening test” that would examine potential immigrants’ for “hostile attitudes toward our country or its principles.” Trump did not elaborate but his aides told reporters that these ideological tests will include questions regarding the immigrants’ attitudes to religious freedom, women’s equality and LGBT rights.
The measures seemed to be tailored to target certain Muslim immigrants. Trump even spoke about making sure that those who “who believe that Sharia law should supplant American law” should not be allowed in. But they could easily apply to broad swaths of the immigrant pool as well.
In some Jewish circles, for example, there is clear religious discrimination against LGBT people. It is also far from clear how the Trump rules would apply to Jewish denominations that bar women from serving in clergy positions, or that use religious courts based on the Jewish law (halacha) for resolving family and business disputes.
Trump, in his speech, stated that the ideological test would also be used to weed out those holding anti-Semitic views.
“Beyond terrorism, as we have seen in France, foreign populations have brought their anti-Semitic attitudes with them,” Trump said.
That argument didn’t fly with Jewish advocates.
“As Jews, we feel called to oppose policies which would bar a person based on their faith or where they come from,” Nezer said. “We have full confidence in the U.S. government’s commitment to keeping our country safe, and we cannot allow xenophobia and fear to drive our policies.”
The Anti-Defamation League also spoke out against Trump’s proposals, “Refugees from Syria, Iraq, etc. are fleeing the same terror we fear,” the ADL tweeted Suspending immigration would only trap those who need refuge most.”
Could Donald Trump’s ‘Extreme Vetting’ for Immigrants Bar Orthodox Jews and Israelis?
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, was the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.