Gov. Baker hardens stance on accepting Syria refugees
BOSTON >> Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday morning he is not willing to agree to accept Syrian refugees in Massachusetts until the federal government tells him "a lot more" about its plan for screening refugees who enter the country.
"No, I'm not interested in accepting refugees from Syria," Baker told reporters. "I would need to know a lot more than I know right now before I would agree to do anything."
In the wake of the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday, Baker's hardened position on accepting Syrian refugees follows similar pronouncements from other American governors about their reluctance to accept people seeking asylum from the war-torn Middle Eastern country.
ABC News reported Monday that governors in at least six other states — Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan and Texas — are now refusing to accept refugees, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed an executive order to stop any relocation of refugees to his state.
Baker said he wants to get the full picture of the federal government's plan before saying yes or no definitively. So far, the governor said, he has had no conversations on the topic with federal officials.
"I think 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," Baker said.
As the investigation into the Paris attacks has unfolded, French authorities have indicated that at least one of the attackers may have made his way from Syria to France by posing as a refugee. Baker said he considers the safety and security of the commonwealth his highest priority and is going to "set the bar really high" when it comes to any discussion of accepting refugees.
Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, who joined Baker on Monday to testify in support of the governor's opioid legislation, said he thinks it is too early to have a conversation about accepting foreign refugees.
"We would have to see the vetting process and what's happening with the vetting process," Walsh said. "I think there is going to be an opportunity for the governor at the state level and the city to weigh in on this, but right now, ultimately, it's a federal government decision and we don't have say in the matter today."
In September, as some European countries like Germany were opening their doors to Syrian refugees streaming out of that country, Baker joined with Walsh in saying that Massachusetts would be open to a discussion about accepting refugees. The White House announced at the same time that the United States would accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year.
"We'd be open to a conversation with the feds if the feds were to choose to go in that direction, but we would want to know what the game plan was, what the expectations were, how we would anticipate paying for whatever it is they would expect supporters to do," Baker said at the time.
He continued in September by saying, "But my view on this is the United States is part of the global community. This is clearly a global crisis, and we should do as a nation what I would call, sort of, our fair share."
The U.S. Department of State includes Syria on its list of "state sponsors of terrorism," or countries determined by the secretary of state "to have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism."
Following the attacks in Paris, Baker said that the state police and state homeland security officials were working closely with federal partners, including the FBI in Boston, to "closely monitor all activity in the commonwealth."
"While there has been no credible threat to our state, law enforcement teams will remain in constant contact with federal and local officials to ensure the safety and security of our citizens," Baker said in a statement.
On Sunday, Baker attended a solidarity event on the Boston Common with Consul General of France Valery Freland and others to showcase the state's support for the people of France.
"Our hearts go out to the people of Paris after a horrendous night of sheer terror and senseless violence that tragically took the lives of innocent people. Lauren and I continue to keep the victims and their loved ones in our thoughts and prayers," Baker said in a statement after the attacks.
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