Resolution Adopted by the CCAR

Sanctuary

Adopted by the CCAR at the 96th Annual Convention of
the Central Conference of American Rabbis
1985

Whereas we are instructed in the Holiness code (Lev. 19:33) to do no harm to the stranger residing in our midst and to learn the lesson of history--"Know the heart of the stranger, for you too were strangers in the land of Egypt"--and to act accordingly, and

Whereas the history of the Jewish people from Egypt through the Holocaust and continuing today is the story of a group forced time and again to flee the lands in which it resided, and having been repelled often in times of greatest need, Jews recognize the necessity for havens for the persecuted, and

Whereas thousands of men, women, and children are fleeing oppression, torture, and murder and are seeking haven in the United States and Canada,and

Whereas the United States signed the United Nations convention relating to the status of refugees, which states: "No contracting state shall expel or return a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers or territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion," and

Whereas the Refugee Act passed by Congress in 1980 provides for the grant of asylum to any refugee demonstrating a "well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion," and

Whereas these laws notwithstanding, the United States continues, based on foreign policy considerations, to arrest and deport refugees who have a well-founded fear of persecution, and

Whereas some two hundred churches and synagogues have offered public sanctuary to Central Americans and others fleeing violence and oppression; hundreds of other religious institutions have agreed to support the work being done by offering sanctuary, and four American cities have declared themselves to be sanctuary cities, and

Whereas some of these actions are presently deemed by our government as violations of law, and there have been arrests and convictions of persons participating in them, and

Whereas for decades the Central Conference of American Rabbis has been on record in support of political freedom for all people,

Be it therefore resolved that

1. We ask that the government of the United States fairly apply the Refugee Act of 1980, without regard to the political relationship between the country fled and the United States.

2. We favor passage of legislation which would temporarily suspend deportation of those fleeing El Salvador and Guatemala and other oppressive regimes until such a time as refugees can safely return to their countries of origin.

3. While we acknowledge that religious institutions do not stand outside the law, the selective interpretation of the law and the human tragedies which have resulted from that interpretation call for a moral response from us as Jews.

Therefore we applaud our members and their congregations who provide sanctuary--support, protection, and advocacy to all refugees who request safe haven out of fear of persecution upon return to their homeland. We recognize the serious legal implications of such actions and alert the congregations to the recent prosecutions for assistance and support of these refugees, even as we commit ourselves to support efforts to overturn the administration's legal position.

4. In addition, we applaud our members and their congregations who

a. provide material and financial support to organized religious or humanitarian entities with aid earmarked for persecuted individuals;

b. sponsor counseling for refugees to explain remedies available under the Immigration and Naturalization Act;

c. create funds or programs to meet their legal, psychological counseling, and language training needs; and

d. encourage municipal governments to establish their communities as "sanctuary areas."