US politicians decry wave of Sephardi Spanish citizenship rejections

Responding to allegations that thousands of applications were rejected in 2021, lawmakers ask Spanish president to investigate.

Dan Verbin ,

Hebrew-Spanish prayer book
Hebrew-Spanish prayer book
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A group of Congress members has sent a letter to Spain’s president urging him to investigate reports that large numbers of the descendants of Jews who were exiled from Spain in 1492 have reportedly been denied citizenship under a 2015 law.

The letter is in response to a July New York Times piece that alleged claimants were experiencing unfair hurdles obtaining Spanish citizenship, even after spending large sums of money to pursue the process under the Spanish citizenship law.

The article cited over 3,000 rejections in 2021, versus 34,000 approvals in previous years since 2015.

The letter’s signatories include Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM), who raised the issue with the White House and State Department earlier in the year.

The letter addressed to Spanish President Pedro Sánchez notes the signatories’ “concern over the recent wave of rejections” that have made attaining Spanish citizenship “nearly impossible.”

They called on Sánchez to look into four ways that applicants are being rejected: previous decisions being overridden by higher ups; confirmations of Sephardic ancestry by Jewish organizations being denied; requirements for submitted genealogical documents suddenly changing; and insisting that applicants demonstrate they had a connection previous to the law’s enactment in 2015 through donations to Spanish nonprofits.

Calling the 2015 law a “remarkable gesture [that] showed the world how to atone for the sins of the past,” they said the significant number of rejections was unfortunate.

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

The letter called on Spain to reverse the trend in order to “ensure that every eligible Sephardic Jewish descendant can receive citizenship.”

They added that their constituents had reached out to them for help as descendants of Spanish Jews who had fled the Inquisition.

“They believed in Spain’s promise of reparation. Spain’s apparent administrative rescission of that promise is heartbreaking to them,” they wrote.



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