In the midst of national debate about accepting Syrian refugees into the United States, New Haven has recently welcomed a Syrian family.
The family of three — a mother, father and their four-year-old son — are refugees from Homs, Syria, Gov. Dannel Malloy said at a press conference in City Hall Wednesday. The family originally intended to settle in Indiana, but Gov. Mike Pence’s refusal to take in Syrian refugees after 129 people died in terrorist attacks in Paris forced immigration authorities to find a new location for the family. Connecticut, Malloy said, was happy to take the family. The Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services resettlement agency coordinated their Wednesday arrival to New Haven. IRIS has settled a total of 22 Syrian families in New Haven.
Malloy said he met with the family — whose names are being withheld due to security concerns — before the press conference in City Hall. He said he told them through a translator that he was proud to have them in the state.
“We have an obligation to the nations of the world to do our part,” Malloy said. “It was the right thing to do, and, frankly, if you believe in God, I think it’s the moral thing to do.”
Malloy said the family fled Homs, a site of fierce fighting throughout the Syrian civil war, four years ago when their son was less than a year old. They lived in Jordan for three years while waiting to gain entry to the United States. Malloy said that the refugee placement process typically takes 12 to 18 months.
Pence’s refusal to take in Syrian refugees is the latest disagreement in an ongoing feud between him and Malloy. After Indiana passed its Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which contained controversial clauses allowing business owners to refuse same-sex couples service, Malloy signed an executive order banning state-funded travel to Indiana.
Malloy cited that dispute in his speech in City Hall, saying that the “homophobic” RFRA has left him “no longer surprised by anything [Pence]does.” Malloy added that he believes Pence has no legal standing to refuse the admittance of refugees to his state.
Stephen Glassman, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, agreed with Malloy. He said in a statement that the federal government, not the states, determines who can enter the country.
Malloy has been vocal in advocating to accept Syrian refugees. Appearing in an interview on MSNBC with Chris Hayes Tuesday, he defended President Barack Obama’s plan to accept at least 10,000 refugees over the next year and criticized the 31 governors who have vowed not to allow refugees into their states.
“The Americans are generous people, and they understand what’s written on the Statue of Liberty,” Malloy said. “We’ll return to this common-sense situation, but a lot of governors got ahead of themselves, didn’t bother to do their homework … and jumped on the political bandwagon.”
Noting that the terrorists who committed the massacres in Paris came from France and Belgium, not Syria, Malloy questioned why Republican governors have criticized Syrians in the days following the attacks. .
But not all Connecticut politicians are on board with accepting the refugees. In a Monday statement, House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, questioned Malloy’s stance.
Klarides said that, while the federal government must play the lead role in determining immigration policy, Connecticut homeland security experts should also have a say in who enters the state. She added that officials must bear in mind the safety of Connecticut residents when making any decisions about the refugees.
State Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington, said in a Tuesday release that he heard concerns from constituents about the prudence of allowing Syrian refugees to enter Connecticut.
“People are very concerned about it, and I share their concerns,” he said. “To my mind, it doesn’t make sense under the current circumstance to invite in a group of people who we can’t properly screen. Even the director of the FBI admitted that it’s a virtually impossible process to vet people adequately.”
Malloy said in City Hall that the United Nations has recommended the United States take in roughly 23,000 refugees. So far, only 7,000 refugees have been approved for entry and only 2,000 have settled in the United States.
A rally in support of accepting Syrian refugees is scheduled for next Saturday at the State Capitol in Hartford.