All of These States Are Welcoming Refugees

November 17, 2015, 7:00 PM UTC
Photograph by Bulent Kilic—AFP/Getty Images

In the wake of the coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris that left at least 129 dead, scores of U.S. governors, mostly Republican, have come out against accepting Syrian refugees. They point to reports that one of the Paris attackers posed as a Syrian refugee to enter the European Union through Greece.

“I do not trust this administration to effectively vet the people who are proposed to be coming in,” New Jersey governor and Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie said on Monday, adding he wouldn’t even accept “orphans under five”—a sentiment that has now been repeated by more than two dozen governors. Plenty of other states have punted, with some pointing out that governors don’t have the power to decline refugee resettlement, anyway. But a handful of governors have stood up in opposition to their peers, laying out the welcome mat in front of their states in no uncertain terms.

Here they are, so far:

Pennsylvania. Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, says that refugees are still welcome in the Quaker State. “We must not lose sight of the fact that families leaving Syria are trying to escape the same violence and unimaginable terror that took place in Paris and Beirut,” his spokesman, Jeffrey Sheridan, told PennLive. “Pennsylvania will continue working with the federal government to ensure that all individuals have gone through the proper screening process.”

Vermont. Gov. Peter Shumlin, also a Democrat, said in a press conference on Monday: “The governors who are taking those actions are stomping on the qualities that make America great, which is reaching out to folks when they’re in trouble and offering them help, not hurting them.” He said Vermont is open to accepting more refugees, according to the Burlington Free Press.

Connecticut. Gov. Dannel Malloy downplayed the risk of refugees, pointing toward their small number and rigorous federal screening. “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,” his spokesperson said in a statement to NBC News.

Washington. The state’s governor Jay Inslee said that “Washington will continue to be a state that welcomes those seeking refuge from persecution, regardless of where they come from or the religion they practice” in a statement Monday. He said that his peers’ attempts to close their borders were “of little value except to divide people and foment intolerance,” according to the Seattle Times.

Delaware. Democratic governor Jack Markell used Republican idol Ronald Reagan’s words against the governors attempting to block refugees. “Ronald Reagan once stood for ‘America’s tradition as a land that welcomes peoples from other countries,’ and one that shares with other countries ‘the responsibility of welcoming and resettling those who flee oppression’,” he said in a statement reported by the Delaware News Journal. “It is a shame the Republicans nationally who would close our borders do not share Reagan’s commitment to America being a welcoming country to those seeking safety from fear and persecution.” He’s keeping Delaware open for refugees.

Hawaii. Gov. David Ige says refugees are still welcome in the 50th state. “Hawaii is the Aloha State, known for its tradition of welcoming all people with tolerance and mutual respect,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

Colorado. Gov. John Hickenlooper rolled out the welcome mat quietly: “We will work with the federal government and Homeland Security to ensure the national verification processes for refugees are as stringent as possible. We can protect our security and provide a place where the world’s most vulnerable can rebuild their lives,” he said, according to the Denver Post.

California. Gov. Jerry Brown said that the United States needed to maintain its “traditional role as a place of asylum,” and said that he plans to work with the federal government to ensure vetting processes are up to snuff, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Oregon: Gov. Kate Brown tweeted out that Oregon would continue to accept refugees, after declining to comment on Monday.

New York: In a speech delivered at Harvard University on Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, ““We have to protect Americans and not lose our soul as America in the process. Right?” according to New York Daily News. “The day America says ‘Close the gates, build the wall,’ then I say take down the Statue of Liberty because you’ve gone to a different place.”


This story was updated to include the latest statements by Govs. Kate Brown and Andrew Cuomo, as well as the rising count of governors who have asked (or demanded) the federal government not resettle Syrian refugees in their states.

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