Several of the area’s state and federal representatives Tuesday joined more than half of all U.S. governors in calling to repel Syrian refugees after the ISIS-backed attacks in Paris.
State Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, outright called on President Barack Obama and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to “halt the influx” of refugees coming to New York, citing national security issues stemming from not truly knowing who’s who among them.
The federal government this fall announced 10,000 refugees fleeing war-torn Syria will enter the United States through next year. They’re slated to be spread throughout the country — several dozen were housed as close as Erie County just this year — raising concerns of Islamic State operatives slipping through what the State Department has touted as a stringent background check process.
“There is virtually no way to discern an ISIS terrorist from refugees because Syria does not have a computerized method to check people’s backgrounds. At least one of the terrorists in Paris gained entry into France via a fake passport and by posing as a refugee,” Young stated in a press release. “Common sense tells us that we should not place our American citizens at risk by settling unvetted people with possible terrorism ties in our communities.”
She said New Yorkers should have particular concern as 9/11 victims and firsthand witnesses.
“New York continues to be the top target of terrorists,” Young said.
Assemblyman Joe Giglio, R-Gowanda, is not publicly making demands, but he did acknowledge a perceived threat Tuesday.
“It’s a federal problem” and decision, Giglio said. “The FBI has to be able to verify who’s coming into the country and who’s not. If they can’t do it, there should be a moratorium. If they can’t, (refugees) shouldn’t come until we can figure out how to keep our own citizens safe. That’s the first priority of government. That’s up to the feds to make sure that happens.”
Congressman Tom Reed, R-Corning, too, would prefer the Syrian refugee program stop until greater assurances of safety can be offered.
“I care about keeping Americans safe by keeping ISIS out of our country. It's only right that we prioritize America's security and thwart any potential act of terrorism on our soil,” Reed said in a statement. “... We are a compassionate country and have demonstrated our humanitarian commitment with the billions of dollars we have provided in foreign aid to deal with situations just like this. However, we are extremely reluctant to allow this initiative to continue or expand until, at minimum, the administration can actually demonstrate ways to keep us safe in the process.”
Young noted, however, the U.S. should continue to provide humanitarian aid to Middle East refugees.
“ISIS and other extremists want to inflict brutal violence on America,” she said. “Rolling out the red carpet to people without knowing who they actually are and what intentions they have is irresponsible and could have devastating consequences. This relocation effort to our soils needs to end immediately.”
Speaking at a press conference Monday following the G20 summit in Turkey, Obama said not accepting the refugees would counter American ideals and assured that coalition forces are working to “contain” ISIS.
A large majority of the state governors who had announced opposition as of Tuesday night are Republicans.
Cuomo blasted the opposition as “a pure political statement” Tuesday while addressing the Harvard Kennedy School.
"How? Where does it say in the state constitution you can refuse a person placed by the federal government?" Cuomo said. "What, are you going to have your militia fight the federal government at the borders of your state?”
(Contact reporter Kelsey Boudin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @KelseyMBoudin)