A day after Charlie Baker said he’s opposed to Syrian refugees resettling in Massachusetts until he knows more details, the governor is pushing back against critics who’ve accused him of a lack of compassion—and of joining a broader national push to ban such resettlement.
“I got asked several times, ‘Does this mean you want a ban?’ And I said no,” Baker said today at the State House. “What I want is information. But until I have that information, I want to look out for the safety and security of the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
Yesterday, Baker said, his administration reached out to the U.S. State Department to begin the conversation he feels is necessary before resettlement can occur.
“I get the fact—and I believe in—that Massachusetts has been an active and engaged and cooperative participant with the State Department and its refugee resettlement programs for years,” the governor added. “That’s part of who we are and what we’re about. But Syria is a very complicated place.
“What I’m looking for is some guidance from the feds about how they plan to incorporate that into the process they pursue, so that the Commonwealth has some idea about how this is going to work. Because in the end, the safety and security of people in Massachusetts is my highest priority.”
For the record, Baker didn’t actually say an unequivocal “no” yesterday to when he was repeatedly asked if he supports a ban. But he never actually used the term himself. And in an exchange that lasted about three minutes, and was littered with confusing double negatives, it seemed clear that the reporters questioning Baker were more interested in discussing a possible ban than he was.
As he explained his concerns Tuesday, the governor also noted that duplicate Syrian passports were found near one of the perpetrators on last week’s lethal terrorist attacks on Paris, and on a man arrested in Serbia after the attacks.
Baker’s stance has elicited sharp pushback from Massachusetts Democrats, including Congressman Seth Moulton, who tweeted: “It’s a shame that Governor Baker doesn’t know the difference between refugees and those from whom they need refuge.”
Today, Baker took sharp issue with that critique
“First of all, I doubt that Congressman Moulton actually heard my whole statement--because if he did, I can’t believe that’s what he would have said,” Baker said. “And secondly, I think it’s unfortunate that a serious guy like that went straight to the partisan talking points with respect to how he responded on that, instead of engaging in the serious conversation that I believe we should all be having.”
Baker also pointed out that several Democrats have expressed concerns similar to his own.
“Senator Markey yesterday, and Congressman McGovern, as well as several senior members of the FBI, all said that the vetting process associated with refugee resettlement—especially as it relates to Syria—probably needs a once over,” Baker said. “That’s what I’m looking for.”
Yesterday on Boston Public Radio, Democratic Congressman Stephen Lynch made a similar argument.
Appearing with Baker yesterday, Marty Walsh, the Democratic Mayor of Boston, took a position similar to the governor’s—but later issued a statement that seemed to soften his stance.
Asked if he had any inclination to do something similar, Baker responded with an unequivocal no.
“I’m not going to walk back anything I said yesterday,” the governor replied. “I can’t help it if somebody chose to use a phrase instead of a sentence to report what I actually said.”