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US Lawmakers Urge Spanish PM to Investigate Mass Rejections of Descendants of Sephardi Jews Claiming Citizenship

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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón at the European Council, February 20, 2020. Photo: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Reuters.

A group of US lawmakers have called on the Spanish prime minister to investigate and reverse the reported pattern of rejections of Jewish claims to Spanish citizenship, made under a 2015 law allowing descendants of Jews expelled from Spain in the late 15th century to do so.

A New York Times report in July detailed how claimants were being stymied in their extensive and often highly expensive efforts to gain Spanish citizenship under the law. The article stated that more than 3,000 people have been rejected this year, in contrast to 34,000 who had been accepted in previous years.

The congressional letter, addressed to Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, noted four methods by which applicants are being systematically rejected, including overriding officials called Notarios, who confirm the ancestry of applicants; rejecting confirmations offered by Jewish organizations; changing requirements for genealogical documents already submitted; and requiring that applicants showed a “special connection” to the country via donations to Spanish charities given before the law was enacted.

The letter’s signatories included Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM), a descendant of Inquisition survivors, as well as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Rep. Mike Levin (D-CA), and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), and Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY), among others.

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The lawmakers expressed their “concern over the recent wave of rejections” that have made it “nearly impossible” for applicants to gain citizenship.

“This situation adversely affects our constituents and strains the bonds between our nations,” they wrote, urging the Sánchez to investigate.

They also lamented the trend, given that the 2015 law was “a remarkable gesture” that “showed the world how to atone for the sins of the past.”

The congresspeople urged the Spanish government to reverse the pattern of mass rejections and “ensure that every eligible Sephardic Jewish descendant can receive citizenship.”

“Our constituents have reached out to us as descendants of those Sephardic Jews who fled the Inquisition. They believed in Spain’s promise of reparation. Spain’s apparent administrative rescission of that promise is heartbreaking to them,” they added.

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