The International Refugee Crisis: Experts Examine the Challenge at Washington DC Forum
(L-R: Randi Weingarten, AFT and ASI President; Herb Magidson, Past JLC President; Shelly Pitterman, UNHCR Regional Representative; Mark Hetfield, HIAS President and CEO; Jennifer Podkul, KIND Director of Policy) Photo Courtesy of Mary Cathryn Ricker, AFT Executive Vice President
May 18, 2016: Washington DC - The Jewish Labor Committee and the Albert Shanker Institute hosted a valuable and timely panel discussion on the international refugee crisis and what can be done to alleviate the situation confronting the refugees, as well as the countries in which they are trying to get to and the agencies attempting to help them. A short, moving video showing refugees from around the world began the forum and framed the discussion. Herb Magidson, past JLC president and member of its executive board, introduced the forum by noting that there has always been nativist and isolationist tendencies in the United States, but this is the first time in our history when a nominee of one of our two major political parties is espousing these views.
Shelly Pitterman, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' regional representative for the United States and the Caribbean, noted that the number of displaced persons worldwide is the largest since World War II and is rising, that the first thing to remember is that these are children and their parents and that they are victims, but that the resources pledged to help them is lagging badly. Mark Hetfield, President and CEO of HIAS (known earlier as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), pointed out that the Refugee Convention is now considered international law, but it only means that the first country a refugee reaches cannot turn one away, which is significant as many refugees are struggling to get to another destination after escaping their country of origin.
Photo Courtesy of Arieh Lebowitz, JLC Associate Director