After a string of GOP governors said they won’t accept Syrian refugees on their turf, an Obama ally stepped forward to say the new arrivals will be welcome in his state.
“A few short days ago we witnessed another senseless act of terrorism. Our hearts go out to the families, friends and loved ones of those lost and injured in Paris, and in other acts of terror around the world,” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a statement today.
“Our first priority remains the safety of our residents. We will work with the federal government and Homeland Security to ensure the national verification processes for refugees are as stringent as possible,” Hickenlooper said. “We can protect our security and provide a place where the world’s most vulnerable can rebuild their lives.”
Only one Democrat is on the growing list of governors opposing Syrian refugees: New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan.
“Protecting the safety and security of our people is the first responsibility of government,” Hassan communications director William Hinkle said in a statement. “The governor has always made clear that we must ensure robust refugee screening to protect American citizens, and the governor believes that the federal government should halt acceptance of refugees from Syria until intelligence and defense officials can assure that the process for vetting all refugees, including those from Syria, is as strong as possible to ensure the safety of the American people.”
It’s notable that Hassan is challenging incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), who is known for being tough on national security.
Obama said today at the G-20 summit in Turkey that the United States “has to step up and do its part” in accepting refugees.
“And when I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims, when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefited from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that’s shameful. That’s not American, it’s not who we are,” Obama said. “We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.”
Democratic presidential candidate former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley argued that GOPs were “scapegoating an entire religious community and rejecting those fleeing ISIL’s terrorism and persecution,” which “is what the terrorists want.”
“We need to step up and act like Americans, in accordance with our principles. There are women and children dying and fleeing the same sort of carnage that was unleashed on the people of France. This is a time for American leadership, not a time for us to cower,” O’Malley said. “Keeping America safe and staying true to who we are as a people is not a zero-sum choice. Real leaders don’t throw our values to the wind in the face of fear.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was first out of the gate in the upper chamber with legislation responding to the Paris attack, based on language he previously offered in 2013.
The bill would suspend issuance of visas to nationals of countries with a high risk of terrorism unless the Department of Homeland Security certifies that “aliens already admitted from high-risk countries have been fingerprinted and screened, pose no terrorist risk, and are being monitored for terrorist activity,” “enhanced security measures are in place to screen future applicants and prevent terrorists from entering the country,” and “DHS’ visa entry-exit system is 100 percent complete and a tracking system is in place to catch attempted overstays.”
“The time has come to stop terrorists from walking in our front door,” Paul said. “The Boston Marathon bombers were refugees, and numerous refugees from Iraq, including some living in my hometown, have attempted to commit terrorist attacks.”
“The terrorist attacks in Paris underscore this concern that I have been working to address for the past several years. My bill will press pause on new refugee entrants from high-risk countries until stringent new screening procedures are in place.”