Stand with Asylum Seekers: Letter to Nassau & Suffolk County Legislators

LI JwJ Stand with Asylum Seekers
Posted by Mary Grace Puszka

Take Action: Deadline to Sign this Statement in Support of Asylum Seekers is Monday, June 26, 2023. 

To sign, email Richard Koubek, PhD, Community Outreach Coordinator, Long Island Jobs with Justice at 

TO: Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, members of the Nassau County Legislature and Suffolk County Legislature, Supervisors and Board Members of the Towns of Hempstead, North Hempstead, Oyster Bay, Huntington, Babylon, Smithtown, Islip, Brookhaven, Riverhead, Southampton, Easthampton, Southold and Shelter Island

“You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice…Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your G-d redeemed you from there; therefore, I command you to do this.” [Deuteronomy 24:17-18]

“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” [Matthew 25:35]

The Holy Qur’an repeatedly requires the faithful to comply with agreements and treaties on the rights of refugees, praising those who go to the assistance of people in distress and requiring the faithful to protect them [9:100 and 117], including non-Muslims, by providing amam (safeguard).

We, the undersigned, are an interfaith community of clergy and lay leaders, and the mandates in our traditions could not be clearer. As people representing many faith traditions, we profess the full humanity and dignity of all people, all created in the Spirit of Life’s image. Our sacred texts mandate love, hospitality and a commitment to love our neighbor, with a strong emphasis — literally scores of scriptural mandates — on welcoming the stranger, sojourners from another land.

In recent years, 68 million people worldwide have fled their homes seeking safety. Children account for more than half of this total. Families requesting safety at our borders are fleeing economic exploitation, organized crime , political repression, war, and sexual violence, much of it rooted in disruptions caused by climate disasters and political destabilization. Recent reports indicate that current asylum seekers also include those who have fled Afghanistan after providing assistance to the United States, whose lives now would be in danger at home. Any of us would ask for refuge for our families if faced with the same threats.

Many U.S. towns and cities, including Nassau and Suffolk Counties—consistent with our nation’s foundational ideal to be a place where people come for safety and freedom—have long been welcoming, housing, and employing our immigrant neighbors as they await their court asylum hearings. Houses of worship and non-profits provide care, critical support services, and community. Together as Long Islanders, we can continue (with essential government support and partnerships on the federal, state and local levels) to honor the core values of our diverse faiths and our nation by being a community of welcome.

Unfortunately, some Long Island officials have done just the opposite: inflaming tensions and fears by issuing irresponsible calls to bar asylum seekers from our towns and counties, despite the fact that under both U.S. and International law these asylum seekers are guaranteed the right to seek asylum.

Such rhetoric is especially disheartening considering that during the height of the pandemic, lives were literally saved by essential workers, many of whom are immigrants. They cared for our elderly and disabled family members, planted, harvested and delivered our food, cleaned our public spaces, and much more. While some of us were locked down in our homes, immigrant workers were laboring to strengthen Long Island and our communities.

Our sacred scriptures insist that “neighbor” is never defined as proximity or nationality. Any rejection and resentment of the Spirit of Life’s children is a betrayal of our values, and a betrayal of the Spirit of Life.

We lament the crises of violence, environmental disaster, war, and poverty that cause families to leave their homes and lands in search of safety and asylum; we call for serious attention to fixing our broken immigration system; and we pray for just national and global policies and for the healing of a broken world — a prayer for Tikkun olam — so that all people might have the opportunity to find safety and welcoming in our country, our state, and in our Long Island communities. This is who we are as people of faith.

Download resource to see list of signatories as of June 19, 2023.