NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The war of words between New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio over Syrian refugees headed for the United States heated up Wednesday.
At a news conference Wednesday, de Blasio took aim at Christie’s position of not allowing Syrian refugees in New Jersey and his “anger and disgust at the statements of Gov. Christie,” 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reported.
“This is a nation of immigrants. So I find it absolutely hypocritical for anyone to say, ‘Let us shut our borders to people who are victims of violence ‘ — the innocent people who are fleeing a humanitarian crisis,” de Blasio said. “That is un-American.”
De Blasio slammed Christie further by showing a notorious photo of a rescuer holding the body of a young Syrian boy who drowned months ago off the Greek coast as his family fled for freedom, CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported.
“I’d like to know what Governor Christie says about this. This is the cost of not bringing in people who are innocent victims,” de Blasio said as he held up the photo. “Is this what he wants to see happen to people? Is that what he wants to see happen to children? We don’t accept that here in New York City.”
De Blasio added with careful vetting he’d welcome Syrian refugees into New York City, Papa reported.
“And we are sitting here in the city that has the Statue of Liberty in it. That is the epitome of welcoming immigrants over generations,” de Blasio said.
On Tuesday, Christie sent a letter to President Barack Obama saying his state will not accept any refugees from Syria after the attacks, saying in part: “Neither you nor any federal official can guarantee that Syrian refugees will not be part of any terroristic activity. As such, opening our door to them irresponsibly exposes our fellow Americans to unacceptable peril.”
“I urge you to halt your plans to accept more Syrian refugees in the United States,” Christie wrote. “I have no doubt that ISIS will try to exploit American humanitarianism to expose Americans to similar deadly risk.”
Christie called on the Obama administration to instead support refugee programs in countries nearer to the region.
“I cannot allow New Jersey to participate in any program that will result in Syrian refugees – any one of whom could be connected to terrorism – being placed in our state,” Christie wrote.
On Monday, in response to a question by conservative political commentator Hugh Hewitt, Christie said he would not even admit orphans from the war that are under age 5.
Hewitt then asked, “What if they were orphans under the age of 5?”
“You know, Hugh, we can come up with 18 different scenarios. The fact is that we need appropriate vetting, and I don’t think orphans under 5 should be admitted into the United States at this point. You know, they have no family here. How are we going to care for these folks?” Christie said. “The fact is, you can come up with a number of different scenarios, Hugh, but in the end, I don’t trust this administration to effectively vet the people that they’re asking us to take in. We need to put the safety and security of the American people first.”
De Blasio blasted that specific remark from Christie on Tuesday.
“Because Chris Christie is an elected official, his comment is an embarrassment to this country,” de Blasio said. “If he were in any other profession, it would be dismissed out of hand for the callous, heartless and prejudiced statement that it is.”
De Blasio urged a starkly different approach.
“We should not close our borders to any group of people fleeing the atrocities and horrors of terrorism. To do so is to hand terrorists a victory over our democracy, strengthened over the years by Americans who died or risked their lives for it,” de Blasio said. “We are a strong country. We can protect our country with the appropriate and intensive screening and accept refugees seeking our protection at the same time. New York City is a proud immigrant city, and we will not turn our back on that history or the people being persecuted and fleeing war.”
Christie responded to de Blasio and tweeted he wouldn’t wouldn’t expect anything less from a liberal politician who is more interested in making headlines than protecting the people.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan weighed in on the refugee debate during his weekly SiriusXM/Catholic Channel show.
“I do worry about that. I do worry about that. Look, what you’ve got… as usual, you’ve got two sides and please, God, we can find this via media. You know, the one side says, ‘Oh, who cares about security, we just have to let all these people in.’” Dolan said. “Well, that’s not the best. There are legitimate questions of safety and security. But on the other side there are those that say, ‘That does it, all these refugees are terrorists. Close the doors, lock them, throw away the key. We don’t want anybody else.’ That’s bizarre, too.
“Somewhere in between, with guaranteeing that there is safety, that there is circumspection, and that there is care in vetting the people that come in, but continuing America’s noble tradition of welcome and embracing particularly those who are refugees and in trouble. That we have to maintain. How to do that?” Dolan continued. “Boy, I’m looking [to] wiser people. We bishops worry about that too. We don’t want, whenever you’ve got violence, whenever you’ve got a tragedy, kind of an irrational action is to be, ‘Let’s fight violence with violence.’ These people are irrational, these people are killers, these people are really off the charts. The temptation is for us to react with the same type of irrational hatred. That never works of course, does it? That does not work.”
The U.S. has admitted fewer than 2,200 Syrian refugees since Oct. 1, 2011 and the process for entering this country as a refugee is lengthy. Obama administration officials insist the vetting is good and that there is no need to back down from the goal of admitting 10,000 more refugees this year.
The administration announced that goal earlier this fall after the photograph of the drowned Syrian boy went viral.
Now the deadly Paris attacks have caused a backlash and some of those same lawmakers are calling for the U.S. to close its borders to refugees.
On Wednesday, U.S. House Republicans pushed legislation to change the Obama administration’s program to allow up to 10,000 refugees into the country.
“Remember, ISIS in their own words said, ‘We want to exploit the refugee process to infiltrate west,” said Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas).
President Obama called the bill offensive.
“They’re victims of terrorism,” Obama said. “Apparently, they’re scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America as part of our tradition of compassion.”
In responding to Obama’s remark about “widows and orphans,” some said that women can be just as deadly as men. They pointed out that a woman suicide bomber detonated herself in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis as proof.
So far, a total of eight Syrian refugees have been located in New York City.
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