ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton accused other governors who’ve declared their states closed to Syrian refugees of “showmanship” on Tuesday and criticized them as turning their backs on people trying to escape violence in their homeland.
The two-term Democrat lashed out at calls by roughly half of the nation’s governors to halt migration of Syrian refugees to the United States. Several governors, mostly Republicans, are raising concerns over the possibility that radicals will attempt to blend in with refugees and carry out attacks once on U.S. soil.
“I think it’s showmanship on the part of governors to pretend they would be able to sanctify their border so only certain people can enter their state and other people can’t,” Dayton said. “I want to protect the people of Minnesota every bit as much as any of those governors want to protect the people of their states. But to stand up there with swagger and say, ‘Well, I’m going to prevent the wrong people from entering my state’ to me is just ludicrous.”
Dayton said such postures only erode trust among neighbors with different nationalities or religions and needlessly raise fear.
“What they’re doing is fomenting public alarm that they and their families are not safe because of a threat from people who don’t look like them or come from another country,” Dayton said. “I just think that destabilizes the cohesion we need to live peacefully together in a society.”
He said it’s possible to protect the state’s citizens from harm without walling off refugees.
Minnesota has had fewer than 10 refugees arrive from Syria since 2009, dwarfed by the influx of refugees from places like Somalia and Myanmar.
On Monday, Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt asked Dayton to call on federal officials for a halt in the Syrian refugee program. Senate Minority Leader David Hann added his voice to the push Tuesday, saying Dayton was putting too much faith in the ability of the federal government to conduct background checks.
“This is not a discussion about permanently closing our borders, or even permanently rejecting Syrian refugees,” Hann said in a written statement. “But right now, we are lacking the intelligence necessary to implement security screenings intensive enough to guarantee our safety.”
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