What is HIAS? Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Suspect Accused Jews Of Helping Migrant Caravan 'Invaders'

pittsburgh tree of life synagogue shooting, rabbi
Police rapid response team members respond to the site of a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood on October 27, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

The Pennsylvania man suspected of having opened fire on a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday, killing 11 people, appeared to have accused Jewish people of helping aid "caravans" of Central American migrants currently making their way to the U.S. border to seek asylum in the days before the mass shooting.

A social media account account appearing to belong to suspect Robert Bowers, 46, on Gab.com, a far-right Philadelphia-based social networking platform, had repeatedly railed against the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) a Jewish refugee advocacy group, accusing the organization of helping migrants traveling with the caravans, according to Reuters.

On the Gab.com account appearing to belong to Bowers, the suspect appeared to accuse HIAS of helping transport members of the migrant caravans, sharing a video that another Gab user had posted purported to show the organization's members working at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Referring to asylum seekers traveling with the caravan as "invaders," the 46-year-old appeared to believe that those traveling with the migrant caravans were violent, despite the fact that many are fleeing their home countries, including Honduras and El Salvador over fears of violence.

"HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in," Bowers reportedly wrote.

A post on the Gab.com platform that Bowers commented on also described HIAS' efforts to help asylum seekers, such as those traveling with the migrant caravan, as "sugar-coated evil," CNN reported.

Bower's comments would have come amid the Trump administration's repeated demands that the thousands of asylum seekers traveling with caravans headed towards the U.S. "turn back" warning that members will not be able to enter the U.S. "illegally."

President Donald Trump has repeatedly railed against the caravans, vowing to end, or at least, significantly reduce, U.S. aid to the home countries of those traveling with them, including Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador over their governments' failures to stop asylum seekers from making their way to the U.S.

Founded in 1881, HIAS has long partnered with the U.S. government to help resettle refugees as part of the country's refugee admissions program, with its longstanding mission being to help aid "people whose lives are in danger for being who they are," according to the organization's website.

The organization has not immediately responded to a request for comment from Newsweek on whether it has been involved in aiding caravan members on the ground, but has previously spoke out in defense of migrants traveling with the caravans, urging the Trump administration to "respect the rule of law" and "provide all asylum seekers the opportunity to present their claims as required by law."

In a statement sent to Newsweek on Saturday, the organization also expressed its condolences over the shooting that morning, saying: "There are no words to express how devastated we are by the events in Pittsburgh."

Calling the shooting a "senseless act of violence," the organization said that "as we try to process this horrifying tragedy, we pray that the American Jewish community and the country can find healing."

Bowers surrendered to authorities not long after the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue.

He is currently facing 29 charges in connection with the rampage, which is believed to be the deadliest attack on America's Jewish community in U.S. History, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

What is HIAS? Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting Suspect Accused Jews Of Helping Migrant Caravan 'Invaders' | U.S.
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