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Faith groups react to efforts to keep Syrian refugees out of the U.S.
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Leaders from Catholic, evangelical Christian and Jewish groups have spoken out against politicians' plans to reject Syrian refugees. - photo by Kelsey Dallas
One day after more than two dozen governors announced they would bar Syrian refugees from living in their states, leaders from a variety of faith groups called for continued resettlement.

Support for refugees has come in official statements from Catholic, evangelical Christian and Jewish groups, which all urge politicians not to blame an entire group of people for the actions of a few.

"Of course we want to keep terrorists out of our country, but let's not punish the victims of ISIS for the sins of ISIS," said Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, in a statement. "We are horrified and heartbroken by the terrorist atrocities in Paris, but must not forget that there are thousands more victims of these same terrorists who are fleeing Syria with their families and desperately need someplace to go."

The Obama administration announced plans earlier this year to resettle around 10,000 Syrian refugees in the U.S., The New York Times reported. By late Monday, that goal was in jeopardy, as 25 governors joined a growing coalition of members of Congress who have said they will refuse to house refugees in their states.

"Who in their right mind would want to bring over tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, when we cannot determine, when the administration cannot determine, who is and isn't a terrorist?," said 2016 presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, at a campaign event Monday, according to the Times.

While acknowledging the horror of terrorist attacks and expressing condolences for the city of Paris, many faith leaders are highlighting the vulnerability of refugee families and asking lawmakers to reconsider their proposed immigration ban.

"I am disturbed by calls from both federal and state officials for an end to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States," said Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration, in a statement on Tuesday.

"These refugees are fleeing terror themselves violence like we have witnessed in Paris. They are extremely vulnerable families, women, and children who are fleeing for their lives," he added.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish group, wrote that "this country must not give into fear or bias by turning its back on our nation's fundamental commitment to refugee protection and human rights."

In spite of these strong statements from respected religious voices, commentators have noted that conservative politicians have little to lose when expressing strong opposition to Syrian refugees, as The Washington Post reported.

"The positions of these Republican governors, as well as Cruz and several other people running for president, amount to a political layup," the article noted. "Calling for a ban on Muslim refugees from Syria hits two sweet spots: Concerns among the Republican electorate about the threat posed by Islamic extremists and unhappiness surrounding President Obama's approach to combatting terrorism."
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