Sunday, September 6, 2015

HIAS president Mark Hetfield on the refugee crisis, on NPR

HIAS President: U.S., Europe Treating Migrant Crisis Like 'Business As Usual'

The United States has taken in 1,500 Syrian refugees since the conflict in that country started four years ago. Our next guest thinks the U.S. could and should be doing a lot more. He's Mark Hetfield, president of HIAS - that used to be the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. It is the oldest voluntary resettlement agency in the world and one of the biggest in this country. Welcome to the program.


SIEGEL: The U.S. State Department has indicated the U.S. could accept as many 8,000 Syrians in the coming fiscal year. What more do you think the U.S. should be doing?

HETFIELD: The U.S. should be doing a lot more. We're living through the biggest refugee crisis, certainly, of my lifetime. We have 200,000 dead in Syria. We have people who are fleeing not once, but twice from the conflict. And frankly, the United States and many countries in Europe are treating this like it's business as usual. Taking 8,000 refugees - let alone the 1,800 they might take this year - is not a serious response.

SIEGEL: What's a serious response? What's a number that's a serious response?

HETFIELD: Frankly, well, look at what we did in 1980, during the Indochina boat crisis. We took it over 200,000 refugees with no infrastructure in place to do so, and these were boat people. These weren't people who were coming to our shores; they were in Asia. We were able to mobilize and take 200,000. We should be looking at that number today.

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