Rep. Aaron Regunberg is urging Gov. Gina Raimondo to remain committed to accepting refugees from the Syrian crisis, saying Rhode Island must remain true to America’s identity as a sanctuary for those seeking peace and safety.
In a letter sent this afternoon, Representative Regunberg (D-Dist. 4, Providence) urged the governor to resist calls made after this weekend’s terrorist attack in Paris for her to rescind her willingness to offer sanctuary to refugees if asked by the federal government.
“Too often in times of tragedy, fear leads people toward nationalistic and prejudiced actions, rather than the humanitarianism that is so badly needed in this fractured world. Fanning the flames of xenophobia and bigotry does nothing to increase safety, prevent further tragedy or increase understanding of the complicated problems causing refugees to flee their homelands despite the uncertainty of their futures abroad. Refugees are not the enemy; they are fleeing the same violence we want to fight, and this attack may have been designed to create this very backlash against them.
“I am alive today because — after great desperation and hardship — my grandfather was able to flee Nazi Germany and find safety as a refugee in the Philippines.
“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?” 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.
“It looks like we’re at another decision point. Let’s choose the path that stays true to our ideals and to the inscription on the Statue of Liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
“America has always been improved and strengthened by our immigrants. We are at our best when we recognize that truth and resist fearful calls to ignore those who seek refuge from danger. We can do this responsibly and safely, and I urge you to keep Rhode Island true to its long history of welcoming those who seek sanctuary from persecution.”