Governor Gina Raimondo now says she will welcome Syrian refugees, if the Obama administration asks her to. The statement came after competing rallies at the Statehouse as public debate over the issue continues.
About 100 people gathered in the Statehouse rotunda as state representatives, the general treasurer, and the secretary of state voiced support for bringing Syrian Refugees to Rhode Island. Members of the state’s Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities shared similar sentiments.
A Gambian refugee, Omar Bah, spoke of his own experience coming to Rhode Island from Africa.
“Refugees come here not only because they are running from their homes; it is because America is unique, and America has taking leadership across the world, and shows compassion when needed,” said Bah. “And that’s what we should continue doing as Rhode Islanders.”
One speaker, Farid Ansari, a Muslim Imam in Providence, said he hopes state leaders and residents show compassion for the refugees.
“I see women and children, I see kids that are being victims of this warfare that is going on,” said Ansari. “So I mean, we cannot unilaterally exclude refugees from coming to the United States, because they’re fleeing for their lives.”
After the rally, another group of about 40 people demonstrated against taking Syrian refugees. State Representative Doreen Costa cited safety concerns among the reasons for her position.
“We have the most sympathy for the pictures that I see and the refugees,” said Costa. “I have said time and time again, if there is a proper way to vet, then let’s let everybody in. Let’s embrace them, and let’s help the women and children. But right now is not the time, because we don’t have a stringent process.”
People in the crowd echoed her comments, saying they are not opposed to sheltering Syrian refugees, but they want the federal government to strengthen the vetting process to guard against terrorism.
Governor Gina Raimondo has said the White House has not yet asked Rhode Island to shelter any refugees.
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