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Hassan criticized for position on Syrian refugees

By DAN TUOHY
New Hampshire Union Leader

November 17. 2015 8:44PM
The first group of Syrian refugees to be accepted by Britain are driven out of Glasgow airport, in Scotland, on Tuesday. (REUTERS/Russell Cheyne)



Two Democrats running for governor say they support Syrian refugees coming into the U.S., in a break with Gov. Maggie Hassan, who wants to halt acceptance until authorities can ensure the vetting process is secure and seamless.

Colin Van Ostern and Mark Connolly issued statements Tuesday supporting refugee resettlement.

Chris Sununu, a Republican gubernatorial hopeful, said the U.S. should halt admitting Syrian refugees at this time.

“A governor has no greater priority than the safety and security of their state’s citizens, and New Hampshire must not accept any Syrian refugees unless the U.S. government can 100 percent guarantee they are not ISIS members or supporters,” Sununu said.

Hassan, a two-term Democrat who is challenging U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, voiced a position similar to Ayotte.

Van Ostern said rejecting refugees from the war-torn country was at odds with what it means to be an American.

“The best way to protect the security and liberty of the people of New Hampshire is through expanding the extensive person-by-person security and safety screening process that the United States requires today for every refugee — not by adopting a new blanket ban against one nationality or religion that plays into the hands of the ISIS terrorists while giving us a false sense of security,” Van Ostern said in a statement.

Van Ostern mentioned U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, who said Monday that the U.S. already has extensive, comprehensive screening for refugees. U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-NH, expressed a similar view.

GOP presidential hopefuls have zeroed in on the issue after the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday, and in particular the reports that one of the attackers had slipped into France under refugee status.

Groups criticize Hassan

Two groups that represent the liberal or progressive wing of the Democratic Party criticized Hassan for her position.

“Gov. Maggie Hassan is caving to the Islamophobic fear-mongering of far-right extremists in attempting to shut New Hampshire’s borders to refugees fleeing blood-chilling violence in Syria,” Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America, said in a statement. “While we might expect to see this kind of fear-based, amoral posturing from Kelly Ayotte, seeing it from a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate is truly disappointing.”

Ilya Sheyman, executive director of MoveOn.org Political Action, said it is wrong to close the door to Syrian refugees, people who are fleeing ISIS terrorists in their own country.

“It is incredibly disappointing to see Democratic Governor and Senate candidate Maggie Hassan join with her far right-wing Republican counterparts in threatening to refuse entry for Syrian refugees to her state,” Sheyman said. “When politicians use fear or racism to win elections, we should condemn that action — not reward it. Democrats need to stand up to the growing anti-Muslim rhetoric now more than ever.

Devon Chaffee, the executive director of the ACLU of New Hampshire, issued a statement saying the ACLU was “saddened” by Hassan’s position. “Attempting to draw a link between the tragedy in Paris and the resettlement of Syrian refugees wrongly blames the refugees for the violence they are fleeing,” Chaffee said. “To shut out Syrian families trying to rescue their children from persecution and in some cases starvation, is to refuse to help the victims of the very terrorism we decry.”

dtuohy@unionleader.com


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