Republican Leaders Ask for Questions to Be Answered about Syrian Refugees [RJ]

November 19, 2015


Some Connecticut residents and Republican leaders are calling for the federal government to halt the acceptance of Syrian refugees while others, including Democratic legislators, defend the effort to provide a home for middle easterners fleeing war.

On Tuesday, state Sen. Len Fasano, the Senate minority leader, and Rep. Themis Klarides, the House minority leader, wrote a letter to the state’s congressional delegation and Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy asking for a halt to the flow of refugees until questions about security can be answered.

“Until we can confirm the security and vetting process for refugees and guarantee that the people coming to Connecticut do not wish to cause harm to our residents, we should not grant entry,” the Republicans said in the letter. “Do we have assurances that extensive background checks will be conducted? Who will be responsible for paying for the related costs? If the state is responsible, how will the state pay for the refugees to live here given our budget deficits?”

Governors in other states have said this week that they would oppose the settling of any Syrian refugees in their states following the ISIS attacks in Paris. One of the attackers had a Syrian passport and some are concerned about terrorists infiltrating Western countries posing as refugees.

Malloy spokesman Devon Puglia said in a statement earlier this week that the governor has questions about the Department of Homeland Security’s screening process for refugees but that the state would welcome those who have been vetted.

Emil “Buddy” Altobello, a Democratic state representative from Meriden, said there’s little that governors or state governments can do on immigration or asylum granted to foreigners.
“It’s an act of Congress in 1980 that dictates this sort of thing,” he said. “The governors that have said ‘no way, no how’ don’t really have any say in the matter.”

The numbers of Syrian refugees arriving in Connecticut have been small, Altobello said, and they are given rigorous screenings. He had no concerns about refugees but understood that state residents are fearful about terror attacks and radicalized individuals who seem to strike without warning.

“The people in this program have been properly vetted,” he said. “They undergo a much more rigorous vetting process than normal immigration.”

State Rep. Rob Sampson, R-Southington, said he’s been receiving phone calls, emails and social media messages following the weekend attack in Paris from residents concerned about an increase of Syrian refugees in the state.

“People are genuinely fearful,” he said.

“The duty of our government, our number one responsibility, is the safety of our citizens,” he said. “Despite claims by the governor and the president, there’s no way to properly screen the refugees.”
Liz Connelly, spokeswoman for Democratic state Rep. Joe Aresimowicz, said his office had received “one or two calls” on the issue. The representative hadn’t released a statement on refugees.
Aresimowicz, the House majority leader, represents Berlin and Southington.

State Rep. Mary Mushinsky, D-Wallingford, said the Paris attacks were a lesson that “waving through a large number (of refugees) with minimal security doesn’t work.

“Our screening process must be much tighter,” she said.