BY CHRIS KERR | November 22, 2015
WASHINGTON, DC – National Catholic social justice organizations delivered a letter to Congress on November 19, calling on legislators to “open our hearts and our homes to Syrian refugees of all faiths.” This request comes amid statements by Congress members, governors, presidential candidates, and other political leaders, calling for the U.S. to discontinue refugee re-settlement of Syrian refugees.The letter, distributed to members of both the U.S. Senate and House, was endorsed by 13 national Catholic organizations including the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States and the Ignatian Solidarity Network.
“Our federal legislators, governors, and local officials need to know that as people of faith, we cannot be deterred by fear in welcoming Syrian refugees fleeing war and violence,” said Christopher Kerr, executive director of the Ignatian Solidarity Network.
The statement notes the extensive process that an individual goes through to obtain refugee status citing, “biometric checks, forensic testing, medical screenings and in-person interviews.” Late this week the White House published an infographic detailing the full process to provide clarity for the public and elected officials.
The letter to Congress came just before the U.S. House of Representative on a bill that would expand background checks on Iraqi and Syrian refugees hoping to enter the U.S. Titled the “America Security Against Foreign Enemies SAFE Act” (H.R. 4038), it moved quickly through congressional procedures and passed the U.S. House by a vote of 289-173 on November 19, just two days after being introduced. H.R. 4038 received a House vote on November 19, just two days after it was introduced. President Obama has said he would veto the bill if it also passed the U.S. Senate. The Senate is tentatively planning to address the bill after the Thanksgiving recess.
CATHOLIC ORGANIZATION’S LETTER:
Chris joined the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) as executive director in 2011. He has over fifteen years of experience in social justice advocacy and leadership in Catholic education and ministry. Prior to ISN he served in multiple roles at John Carroll University, including coordinating international immersion experience and social justice education programming as an inaugural co-director of John Carroll’s Arrupe Scholars Program for Social Action. Prior to his time at John Carroll he served as a teacher and administrator at the elementary and secondary levels in Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. Chris speaks regularly at campuses and parishes about social justice education and advocacy, Jesuit mission, and a broad range of social justice issues. He currently serves on the board of directors for Christians for Peace in El Salvador (CRISPAZ). Chris earned a B.A. and M.A. from John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio. He and his family reside in Shaker Heights, Ohio.