Why I resigned from the Department of Homeland Security

I thought of resigning from the Council many times. But my belief that my presence might make a difference kept me from doing so — until I learned that the Administration was separating children from parents at the Southwest border. That policy reflected such depravity and lawlessness that I simply couldn’t associate myself any further with the Administration. I readily joined three colleagues on the Council who were planning to resign for the same reason, although I sent my own letter of resignation in addition to signing theirs.

What is so astonishing to me is how much this country has changed since 1980, when I was privileged as chair of the House Immigration Subcommittee to co-author with Senator Ted Kennedy the Refugee Act of 1980. The Act — which was adopted without serious controversy — created a framework for the regular admission of refugees to the U.S. The immediate stimulus for the bill was the huge exodus of boat people leaving Vietnam. Though the memory of the Holocaust played a role, too, particularly the knowledge that the U.S. could have rescued so many people from the hands of the Nazis but did not. The Refugee Act marked our commitment as a nation to welcoming persons fleeing persecution anywhere.

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