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Bishop Tobin Supports Admitting Syrian Refugees; Some Lawmakers Disagree

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In a reaction to the attacks in Paris last Friday, some state lawmakers are sharing their views with Governor Gina Raimondo about whether Syrian...

State Rep. Robert Nardolillo of Coventry.

In a reaction to the attacks in Paris last Friday, some state lawmakers are sharing their views with Governor Gina Raimondo about whether Syrian refugees should be allowed into the state.

Two Republican state reps, Robert Nardolillo of Coventry, and Doreen Costa of North Kingstown, said Syrian refugees could pose a security threat. They say the more prudent course is not allowing refugees into the state.

“I am a realist and I hope that Governor Raimondo is as well," Nardolillo said in a statement. "We must do everything within our control to safeguard all Rhode Islanders. Given the current events, accepting refugees into our state will only exacerbate the potential for our own nightmare to occur.”

But another state rep, Providence Democrat Aaron Regunberg, is calling on Raimondo to keep Rhode Island open to refugees. Regunburg said he’s alive since his grandfather was able to flee Nazi Germany, after desperation and hardship, to find refuge elsewhere.

“One of the questions most young American Jews ask when they first learn about the Holocaust is, “Why didn't our country save more European Jews by accepting them as refugees during this terrible period?” he said. "The answer -- bigotry and fear -- has always stuck in my mind as a mark of shame for our country, an example of the United States falling short of our ideals."

In a statement, Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin said allowing refugees access to Rhode Island is the right thing to do.

"It would be wrong for our nation and our state to refuse to accept refugees simply because they are Syrian or Muslim," Tobin said. "Obviously the background of all those crossing our borders should be carefully reviewed for reasons of security. Too often in the past, however, our nation has erroneously targeted individuals as dangerous simply because of their nationality or religion. In these turbulent times, it is important that prudence not be replaced by hysteria. As is our well-established practice, the Diocese of Providence stands ready to assist in a careful and thoughtful process of refugee resettlement."

Raimondo spokeswoman Marie Aberger said the state has not yet been asked to host any Syrian refugees. If that time comes, Aberger said, the governor’s office plans to work closely with state police and the White House to consider the request.

Bishop Thomas Tobin
Bishop Thomas Tobin
State Rep. Robert Nardolillo of Coventry.
State Rep. Robert Nardolillo of Coventry.