CRS, Senator Cardin, And Other NGOs Speak Out On Refugee Ban

Catholic Relief Services joined Senator Ben Cardin and other Baltimore-based international aid organizations in a joint press conference to discuss their opposition to the recently signed National Security Executive Order which, among other things, bans refugees from seven countries; suspends refugee resettlement for 120 days; and indefinitely suspends refugees from Syria. This occurred at CRS headquarters in Baltimore, MD on February 6, 2017. In addition to Senator Cardin, speakers also included Bill O’Keefe, Vice President for Government Relations and Advocacy at Catholic Relief Services, and Nina Zelic, Director for Refugee Services, Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service.

Catholic Relief Services joined Senator Ben Cardin and other Baltimore-based international aid organizations in a joint press conference to discuss their opposition to the recently signed National Security Executive Order which, among other things, bans refugees from seven countries; suspends refugee resettlement for 120 days; and indefinitely suspends refugees from Syria. This occurred at CRS headquarters in Baltimore, MD on February 6, 2017. In addition to Senator Cardin, speakers also included Bill O’Keefe, Vice President for Government Relations and Advocacy at Catholic Relief Services, and Nina Zelic, Director for Refugee Services, Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service. Photo by Lauren Carroll/Catholic Relief Services

The full version of this press release was originally posted by Catholic Relief Services.

Baltimore, MD, February 6, 2017 – Speaking at Catholic Relief Services (CRS) World Headquarters in Baltimore, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said that last week’s executive order banning refugees from seven predominately-Muslim countries, “is not in keeping with the traditions and values of our country.”

“It did not make us more safe, it put us more at risk,” he said.

Cardin appeared at the Monday morning press conference on the refugee issue with Bill O’Keefe, CRS’ Vice President for Advocacy, and Nina Zelic of the Baltimore-based Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

“In many respects, the ban on the countries listed is a religious test, it is a ban on Muslims,” Cardin said. “That, of course, is against American values … we were founded on religious freedom.”

The refugee ban is now facing several legal challenges, and while a suspension of the ban was upheld by a federal appeals court this week, the future of the refugee program is uncertain.

O’Keefe noted that a few weeks ago, he was in a tent in the Kurdistan area of Iraq – which is on the list of countries whose citizens are denied entry under the executive order.

“I was with people who the night before had fled the Islamic State,” he said. “I asked a woman who was sitting there with her six or eight children why they had fled and she told me she had a daughter coming of age and was terrified she would be taken by the Islamic State and turned into a sex slave or a child bride.”

“As the father of a daughter, this unspeakable horror touched me personally, as it would touch all of us who care about our children,” he said. “These are the people we see around as refugees, people who are fleeing violence … That woman was not a terrorist. She was fleeing terrorism.”

To continue reading, please see the full text of this press release.

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Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is the second largest refugee resettlement agency in the United States. It is nationally recognized for its leadership advocating with refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations. Through more than 75 years of service and advocacy, LIRS has helped over 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America.