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Newman pens letter to Nixon on refugee crisis, speaks of her family’s past as refugees


ST. LOUIS – Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis, is well-known as one of the most outspoken and liberal elected officials in the state. She sent a letter to Gov. Jay Nixon Wednesday asking him to not make the same stand as many of the states surrounding Missouri have in refusing Syrian refugees from entering their state, a position that may not even be legal.

Below is the full draft of her letter.

Dear Governor Nixon,

You are hearing from numerous legislators and elected officials for you as Governor to refuse to accept Syrian refugees in potential resettlement to Missouri. It is clear however that immigration policy is under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department, not left up to the states.

I urge you to take a more humane position based on my own family’s personal story as refugees. My father-in-law, along with his mother and siblings, barely escaped Nazi Germany in 1938 when a large number of their extended family was killed in death camps. My husband’s family sold everything to afford the perilous journey to St. Louis and worked harder than most of us can imagine as they created a new life while encountering prejudice and anti-Semitism. American popular opinion then stood at over 67% to keep all Jewish refugees out with strong suspicions, including from the White House, that many were German spies.

My family’s personal story of immigration is similar to many in my district and throughout St. Louis. I am very proud that our region has long had a national reputation of welcoming and caring for those who desperately seek safety.

There is absolutely no evidence that any of the Syrian refugees are dangerous or carry any threat to Missourians. According to The Economist, of the 750,000 refugees resettled in the United States since 2011, none have been arrested on domestic terrorism charges. To assume that refugees do not undergo thoroughly vetted national security screenings is wrong and hints at prejudice, contradictory of the values on which our country originally held dear. For the majority of us to forget our own family’s immigrant path of hardship while turning our backs on others seeking similar safe refuge is morally unacceptable.

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the National Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism reminds us “we must urge public officials and figures across the U.S to reject divisive and inflammatory statements that do not reflect our history as a nation founded by descendants of those who fled persecution in search of freedom.” As a Jew, I wholeheartedly agree and ask you to do the same.

We cannot allow violence and evil wrought by others to dictate false assumptions based on political gain that Missourians are at any risk from refugees seeking safety in our state. As Governor, I ask you to ignore thinly veiled statements of religious persecution and instead welcome others as we wish we once had been.


Stacey Newman