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An update on our refugee work this week

[sent to MoveOn members on Nov. 21]

Dear MoveOn member,

Over the last week, in the wake of the horrific attacks in Paris and Beirut, we’ve seen many of our nation’s politicians rush toward fearmongering and bigotry. We have also seen MoveOn members and our partners at their very best—fighting fear with compassion on the streets, on the phones, in the halls of Congress, and all across America, from college campuses to community meetings.

Here’s an update on where we’ve been, together, over this last week—and where we are bringing our fight for justice in the weeks ahead.

While many of us reacted to the tragic events in Paris, Beirut, and around the globe with shock and grief, some American elected officials and candidates responded by waging a propaganda war against the very people who need our help most: refugee families fleeing from the same violence.

At least 30 governors declared they didn’t want to welcome refugee families into their states.1 The House of Representatives votedon Thursday to block resettlement of Syrians seeking safety in America.Presidential candidates suggested religious tests for refugees and shuttering mosques, and local politicians suggested internment camps.3

The genuine fear that arose after the attacks has, tragically, curdled into bigotry and backlash, fueled by fearmongers and stoked by xenophobes.

It’s frankly far worse than where we stood a week ago. Then, we were asking Congress to expand the Syrian refugee resettlement program to serve 100,000 people—still just a fraction of the 5 million refugees displaced by violence in Syria.

Now, we are struggling for the very right of refugees to be welcomed to our country, period. It feels, in a way, we’re struggling for the soul of our nation.

But although the ground has shifted, there is hope: MoveOn members and Americans of good conscience are speaking out, opening their hearts and their homes, and choosing compassion over fear. President Obama and Vice President Biden have shown tremendous leadership.4 Senate Democrats have so far stood together.

We are heading into a showdown when Congress returns from the Thanksgiving recess—and if we work together, we can be ready for it.

As we head into Thanksgiving week, here’s some food for your soul: a few highlights of the brave and important work MoveOn members were a part of this week.

  • We took out a full-page ad in the French newspaper Le Monde expressing our grief for the victims of Daesh (commonly known as ISIS) in Paris, as well as for the victims in Beirut, Ankara, Baghdad, and elsewhere—and calling for justice, not vengeance. With several other MoveOn-style organizations in Europe, we collected over half a million signatures supporting the ad’s statement. And we held vigils at all of the French consulates in the U.S. within 24 hours of the terrible news from Paris.
  • We made over 7,000 phone calls to Congress to demand safe harbor for people seeking refuge from unspeakable violence in Syria and around the world. And these calls helped turn the tide—pushing Democratic Senators to declare their support for refugee families, thus forcing the Senate to stop short of passing the same anti-refugee bill that passed the House.
  • We gathered over 150,000 signatures, made phone calls, and held rapid-response events to push back against the 29 Republican governors—and New Hampshire Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan—who declared their states’ borders closed to Syrian refugees.5 In Michigan, MoveOn member Julie Quiroz organized an event to deliver 4,500 signatures on her petition to Governor Snyder—drawing media coverage from public radio to Fox News.6
  • We praised—and criticized—our members of Congress via social media. We circulated customized messages via Facebook and Twitter for members of Congress to make sure we were publicly celebrating champions—and keeping the pressure on people who’d let down families that need our help. Our messages have been seen by hundreds of thousands of people.
  • Today and tomorrow, we’re supporting #RefugeesWelcome rallies on nearly a dozen college campuses and at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.—to provide a visible presence to the pro-refugee sentiment shared by so many Americans.
  • And tomorrow, MoveOn’s own Ben Wikler will be on Fox News in the 2 p.m. ET hour to talk about our refugee work—because we can’t only be speaking to the choir right now.

And in the coming days, MoveOn members—and a range of partners, from online organizations to groups that focus primarily on refugee resettlement and integration, and even evangelical Christian groups—will:

  • Host and attend special Thanksgiving-week dinners being planned around the country to bring refugee families, members of Congress, and MoveOn members together to break bread in the spirit of peace and solidarity.
  • Continue to confront governors and members of Congress directly, demanding compassion from our nation’s elected leaders.
  • Elevate the voices of refugees in America and around the world. Refugee families can’t hire their own lobbyists. But they can find partners in those of us who want America to be a welcoming nation.

Our voices and collective action have never been more important than in this very moment.

In many of our emails, we ask you to do something: to sign a petition, donate to a campaign, call your representative, or attend an event. This time, we just wanted to share this report on the range of work we have already tackled together—and some of what we intend to do next. This is a big moment for our country and for the world. There is reason to feel despair at the events of the past week. And there are also so many reasons to feel hopeful—and to keep striving to make America a country that lives up to its values.

Thank you for all you do.

–Anna, Josh, Corinne, Ben W., and the rest of the team

1. “30 Governors Call For Halt To U.S. Resettlement Of Syrian Refugees,” NPR, November 17, 2015
http://www.moveon.org/r/?r=308235&id=&t=3&id=135476-32014540-NZu%3Dh%3Dx&t=12. “House OKs GOP Bill To Curb Syrian Refugees With Veto-Proof Majority,” Talking Points Memo, November 19, 2015
http://www.moveon.org/r/?r=308281&id=&t=1&id=135476-32014540-NZu%3Dh%3Dx&t=23. “Ted Cruz’s Religious Test for Syrian Refugees,” The New Yorker, November 16, 2015

“Donald Trump: ‘Strongly consider’ shutting mosques,” CNN, November 16, 2015

“Roanoke mayor apologizes for suggesting internment for Syrian refugees,” The Washington Post, November 20, 2015

4. “Obama calls idea of screening Syrian refugees based on religion ‘shameful,’ defends White House strategy,” The Washington Post, November 16, 2015

5. “Hassan criticized for position on Syrian refugees,” New Hampshire Union Leader, November 17, 2015

6. “Activists demand Snyder accept Syrian refugees” The Detroit News, November 19, 2015