Listen The Kibitz

Refugees – with Mark Hetfield from HIAS

Season 2 Episode 7

November 28, 2017


Mark Hetfield

CEO of HIAS: the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society

Mark Hetfield was appointed President and CEO of HIAS: the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society after a 25-year career, much of it served at HIAS, most recently as the agency’s senior vice president of policy and programs. An expert in refugee and immigration law, policy, and programs, Mark has led HIAS’ transformation from an organization focused on Jewish immigrants to a global agency assisting refugees of all faiths and ethnicities. As a result, HIAS currently is a major implementing partner of the United Nations Refugee Agency and the U.S. Department of State.

Under Mark’s leadership, HIAS has gained international prominence and recognition as the pre-eminent voice of the American Jewish community on refugee and immigration issues. Passionate about the organization’s mission to help all who flee ethnic cleansing, violence, and other forms of persecution, Mark has said, “HIAS doesn’t help people because they are Jewish but because we are Jewish.”

Mark began his career as a HIAS caseworker in Rome, Italy assisting Jewish refugee applicants from the Soviet Union. He later rejoined the agency as its Washington, D.C. representative, and again as its director of international operations.

Between his roles at HIAS, Mark served as senior advisor on refugee issues at the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, where he directed a congressionally-authorized study on the treatment of asylum seekers. Released in 2005 and still widely used, it is the most comprehensive study on expedited removal to date. Mark and his team were recognized for their work with the Arthur C. Helton Award for the Advancement of Human Rights, presented by the American Immigration Lawyers Association. The award itself was named for a leader in the field of refugee protection.

Prior to these positions, Mark adjudicated appeals at the Immigration and Naturalization Service. In 1994, he was posted to the U.S. Embassy in Haiti, during a time in which the country was under the control of the military junta. Offices processing in-country refugee applications, offering the equivalent of asylum while discouraging Haitians from attempting escape in unseaworthy vessels, were denying 95% of applicants. His quality assurance process increased approvals to approximately 20%.


Jessica Chaffin

Actress, comedian, and writer

Jessica Chaffin is a writer/performer, Emmy-Nominated Consulting Producer on HBO’s Hacks, and host of the popular podcast ASK RONNA.


Dan Crane

Host of The Kibitz

Dan Crane is a journalist, musician, Jew (lax, loves lox) and retired professional air-guitarist. He writes about culture and travel for the New York TimesWall Street JournalCalifornia SundaySlate, and numerous other publications. He’s the author of “To Air is Human” and stars in the documentary, Air Guitar Nation.