Groups Turn Up Pressure on Hogan to Accept Syrian Refugees

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Photo: Eoghan Rice (Creative Commons)
Photo: Eoghan Rice (Creative Commons)

Almost since the moment he decided to put a hold on Maryland’s acceptance of Syrian refugees, Gov. Larry Hogan has faced calls to reverse the position and allow resettlement in the Free State. This week, the pressure is ratcheting up.

The State Department reports that Maryland resettled 35 Syrian refugees in 2015. Following the terrorist attacks in Paris, the governor said the state should not accept more as a matter of safety and security.

Protests were held in Annapolis last week, and a group of 36  faith and social justice organizations sent a letter to Hogan on Tuesday. From the letter, which was signed by the ACLU, Council on Islamic-American Relations, CASA Maryland and others:

To turn our back on refugees is to betray our core values as a welcoming, diverse state that benefits from the contributions of all our immigrant communities. It sends a demoralizing and dangerous message that our state is making judgments about people based on their country of origin and their religion. This feeds into extremist propaganda and makes us all less safe.

Hogan, in the meantime, has shown no signs of relenting. He told CBS Baltimore he would meet with groups, but will not change his position. The Republican governor appears to be in lockstep with his party, who last week passed a bill in the U.S. House that would make it more difficult for refugees to reach American shores. President Barack Obama, who would likely veto the bill, previously announced plans to resettle 10,000 refugees in the U.S.

Despite Hogan’s firm stance, it’s not clear that the resettlement groups need permission from state governments to accept refugees. Since the national controversy started, legal scholars have noted that the federal government, rather than the states, have the most power over immigration. They point to the Refugee Act of 1980, which gives the president the right to make arrangements in “an unforeseen emergency refugee situation.”

On Monday, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake repeated her position that she was willing to accept Syrian refugees in Baltimore. “As we discuss security, we must rely on facts, not fall victim to baseless fears or political demagoguery,” she said during remarks at the Enoch Pratt Free Library branch in Highlandtown, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Stephen Babcock

Stephen Babcock is the editor of Baltimore and an editor-at-large of Baltimore Fishbowl.

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