State senator joins calls to keep Syrian refugees out of RI

Morgan warns goal is 'to murder, rape, and decapitate anyone who is a non Muslim'

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – State Sen. Elaine Morgan has joined other local Republicans in calling on Gov. Gina Raimondo to refuse to allow Syrian refugees into Rhode Island following last week’s Paris attacks.

In an email Tuesday night to a member of the public that was inadvertently carbon-copied to other state senators, Morgan wrote: “I do not want our governor bringing in any Syrian refugees. I think our country is under attack. I think this is a major plan by these countries to spread out their people to attack all non Muslim persons.”

“The Muslim religion and philosophy is to murder, rape, and decapitate anyone who is a non Muslim,” Morgan, R-Hopkinton, wrote.

On Wednesday, however, Morgan said the message had been sent before she was able to edit it, a technical error that she attributed to having just bought a new smartphone and being unfamiliar with its voice transcription function. She said she meant to limit her characterization to “the fanatical Muslim religion and philosophy.”

Raimondo, a Democrat, has come under pressure this week to reverse her earlier support for welcoming Syrian refugees. She was one of 34 governors who took part in a conference call Tuesday with top White House officials to learn more about the refugee resettlement program, as the debate roils the country.

While other governors including Charlie Baker of Massachusetts have said they don’t want to accept more Syrian refugees at this time, Raimondo has said the question remains a “hypothetical” one because the White House has not made a request to place any in Rhode Island at this point.

In response, Rhode Island GOP Chairman Brandon Bell wrote Tuesday: “It is not in the best interest of RI to take refugees from Syria. If Gov Raimondo wants to do whatever Barack Obama wants, she should resign and go join his cabinet.”

In her Tuesday email, Morgan suggested: “If we need to take these people in we should set up [a] refugee camp to keep them segregated from our populous.” She said, “I think the protection of our US citizens and the United States of America should be the most important issue here.”

Expanding on the point Wednesday, Morgan said: “We have veterans in the streets starving, alcoholics, drug addicts. I can see taking [Syrian refugees] in, but keeping them all centralized – it sounds a little barbaric, but we need to centralize them and keep them in one central area.”

Morgan also expressed sympathy for the Syrians’ plight as their country’s multiyear civil war drags on, but suggested a solution would be for them to battle their enemies.

“Any civil war is horrible but these people need to stay and fight for their country,” she wrote in an email. “We as Americans fought our civil wars if we had fled what would have happened? We wouldn’t have the freedom and prosperity we enjoy today.”

Morgan, who defeated incumbent Democrat Catherine Cool Rumsey to win election last November, is the owner of Ashaway Dry Cleaning and previously served three terms as town sergeant in Hopkinton. She also represents Charlestown, Exeter, Richmond and West Greenwich.

Morgan’s comments are the latest by a public official since Rhode Islanders began debating the refugee question following the devastating attacks in Paris last Friday.

Rep. Bobby Nardolillo – who made headlines Monday as the first public official to urge Raimondo to change course on the refugee issue – is planning to hold a press conference Thursday at the State House to discuss his concerns further.

“We must do everything within our control to safeguard all Rhode Islanders,” Nardoillo, R-Coventry, said Monday. “Given the current events, accepting refugees into our state will only exacerbate the potential for our own nightmare to occur.”

On Tuesday, though, Nardolillo indicated he is open to allowing Syrian refugees into Rhode Island if Raimondo and the federal government are able to prove “that the vetting process of refugees seeking asylum is ironclad.”

“There isn’t any hysteria and there is nothing hypothetical about the tragedy of the Paris attacks and the Boston Marathon at the hands of the Tsarnaev brothers,” Nardolillo said. “We must be cognizant of the fact that ISIS has a list of potential targets that include Newport.”

Meanwhile, others including Democratic Rep. Aaron Regunberg, Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin and the state chapter of the ACLU have all urged Raimondo not to shift her position.

“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,” Regunberg wrote Monday in a letter to Raimondo.

“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,” he wrote.

Separately, Democratic Sens. Joshua Miller of Cranston and Gayle Goldin of Providence said they planned to host a State House rally on Thursday afternoon “to demonstrate support and compassion for refugees fleeing the crisis in Syria.” They scheduled their event to take place 90 minutes before Nardolillo’s press conference.

A Bloomberg poll released Wednesday found 53% of Americans want to stop accepting Syrian refugees into the country, while 28% say the federal government should proceed with a plan to resettle 10,000 regardless of their religion, and 11% say the country should only accept Christian refugees.

Investigators have said it remains unclear whether Syrian refugees were directly involved in the Paris terrorist attacks. The perpetrators who have been identified so far were European citizens.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He hosts Executive Suite and writes The Saturday Morning Post. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi

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