While governors across the United States are putting the brakes on accepting Syrian refugees in their states in the wake of last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy seems to be saying, “Come on down.”
The Hartford Courant quoted a Malloy spokesman Monday as saying that the Nutmeg State will continue to accept Syrian refugees but is waiting for further direction from the federal government.
“Obviously in light of the tragedy in Paris, we have questions about the Department of Homeland Security’s screening measures for refugees entering our country,” Devon Puglia, the governor’s director of communications, was quoted by the newspaper as saying. “We are continuing to work with and await guidance from the appropriate federal agencies on screening measures that will be taken. With that said, if refugees — many who are children fleeing a horrific, war-torn country — seek and are granted asylum after a rigorous security process, we should and will welcome them in Connecticut.”
Chris George, executive director of Integrated Refugee and Immigration Services in New Haven said Connecticut’s decision is “smart and compassionate.”
He told the New Haven Register that there are about a dozen Syrian refugee families in the New Haven area, who underwent a two- to three-year screening process before being allowed to move into the state.
“(It’s) completely in tune with his constituents, with the people from Connecticut who have overwhelmingly expressed concerns for Syrian refugees,” George told the Register, speaking of Malloy’s decision. “That is a thoughtful and measured response that all governors should take.”
This is in sharp contrast to a number of other governors in the United States, including Massachusetts’ own Charlie Baker who said given reports, such as one in the Christian Science Monitor, that one of the suicide bombers had gained access to Europe posing as a Syrian refugee that he is currently opposed to allowing more refugees to relocate to the Bay State.
“I would say ‘no’ as of right now,” Baker said, speaking to reporters at the Statehouse on Monday. “I’m not interested in accepting refugees from Syria. I would need to know a lot more than I know now before I agree to do anything.”
According to The Hill, governors who have made statements saying they would ban Syrian refugees include Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson; and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. All six are Republicans, and Jindal is running for president.
Baker did not entirely rule out accepting refugees in the future, if the federal government establishes an appropriate vetting process.
“I’m always going to be willing to at least hear what the federal government has to say. I think as a public official, that’s my job,” Baker said.
But Baker said he will “set the bar really high” before he agrees to allow any refugees into Massachusetts.
“My view on this is that the safety and security of the people of the commonwealth of Massachusetts is the highest priority, so I would set the bar very high on this,” Baker said.
“At this point in time, we would have to be very cautious about accepting folks without knowing a lot more about what the federal government’s plan looks like and how it would actually be implemented and executed on,” Baker said. “I would certainly say no until I know a lot more than I know now.”
Another Republican governor in New England sent mixed signals about the issue before coming down soundly on the side of colleagues like Baker.
“To bring Syrian refugees into our country without knowing who they are is to invite an attack on American soil just like the one we saw in Paris last week and in New York City on 9/11,” Maine Gov. Paul LePage said in a written statement quoted by the Portland Press Herald. “That is why I adamantly oppose any attempt by the federal government to place Syrian refugees in Maine, and will take every lawful measure in my power to prevent it from happening.”
Earlier in the day, Monday, LePage talked with reporters about the issue at the statehouse, but stopped short of saying he would oppose accepting Syrian refugees in Maine.
“I’m with them … because I’m concerned for Maine people, period,” the governor said in response to a question about other governors’ actions, the newspaper quoted LePage via WCSH-TV. “I want to protect Maine people. You remember 9/11? I think some people came through Maine? And they did a lot of damage in New York. I think we need to be very diligent, very on top of this issue.”
Asked to clarify LePages’ statement, spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said the governor did not say Maine would reject refugees. She said he planned to attend the Republican Governors Association annual conference in Las Vegas this week and hoped to discuss the resettlement issue with other Republican state leaders.
But as the day went by, LePage hardened his stance and, before the end of the day, made his opposition clear.
The controversy over Syrian refugees has raged for months. With that country in a civil war, its citizens are fleeing into other countries, overwhelming some. In response, the United States has agreed to take some of the refugees into this country. However, with Syria also being the base for ISIS, some have suggested the refugees crisis would be an easy way for terrorists to sneak into unsuspecting countries.
One Democratic governor in New England is also currently opposed to accepting Syrian refugees. a spokesman for New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan told the Union-Leader that more information is needed before refugees should be allowed to resume coming into the United States.
“Protecting the safety and security of our people is the first responsibility of government,” spokesman William Hinkle said. “And the governor has always made clear that we must ensure robust refugee screening to protect American citizens, and believes that we must know more of the facts about those who carried out the Paris terrorist attacks and have strong assurances of safety from our intelligence officials before we admit refugees from Syria into the United States.”
Back in Connecticut, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal called for the government to streamline the screening process for refugees.
“Most refugees seeking asylum in the United States today are simply seeking to escape brutal violence and persecution,” Blumenthal told the Courant. “We need to make sure we have a strong and effective screening process to identify anyone who poses a risk to our security, but we should not ignore the humanitarian crisis that is underway.”