Justice

Why We Need to Revisit Eleanor Roosevelt's 1939 Refugee Comments

November 18th 2015

By:
Laura Donovan

As the nation debates whether to let more refugees into the U.S. following the horrific Paris attacks, former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt's 1939 remarks about compassion towards refugees are worth revisiting.

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A tweet from the New York Times archives on Wednesday shows that the late Roosevelt demonstrated sympathy towards Jewish refugees trying to escape the Nazis in 1939:

"We must not let ourselves be moved by fear in this country," Roosevelt told a crowd of more than 700 people at the Hotel Roosevelt on November 28, 1939. "We have seen that happen too many times in other countries. Sometimes I worry about the possibility that we will follow their example."

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During this time, Americans weren't crazy about the prospect of Jewish refugees moving into the country. In 1938, just a year earlier, less than 5 percent of polled Americans supported refugees entering the U.S.

Though Americans were more willing to accept refugee children the following year, the vast majority of polled Americans said they did not support refugee children coming into the country:

Roosevelt's 75-year-old pro-refugee comments are relevant today as the U.S. discusses how to approach Syrian refugees. Following last week's Paris attacks, which left more than 120 people dead, more than 20 U.S. governors have voiced opposition to allowing refugees from Syria into America.

"The first and foremost responsibility of government is to keep its people safe," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday, according to NBC News. "We are working on measures to ensure ... that Texans will be kept safe from those refugees."

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Though a growing list of conservative U.S. politicians have voiced concern that Syrian refugees could pose dangers to Americans, President Barack Obama has criticized those who don't want to help refugees in need.

 

Pres. Obama just slammed the hypocrisy of politicians who want to refuse refugees on religious grounds. Read more here: http://bit.ly/1SUwLsJ

Posted by ATTN: on Monday, November 16, 2015


"When I hear folks say that, 'Well maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims,' [and] when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which [a] person who is fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefited from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that's shameful," Obama said. "That's not American. That's not who we are. We don't have religious tests to our compassion."

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