Inslee compares present-day Syrian exodus to 1970s Vietnamese refugee crisis
Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) is supporting Pres. Barack Obama’s plan to allow thousands of Syrian refugees to settle in the U.S., some of whom may be sent to live in Washington state, according to a statement made Monday.
Controversy has intensified over the issue of allowing people leaving war-torn Syria to settle in Europe and the U.S. has become in the aftermath of last week’s horrific terror attacks in Paris that killed 129. Investigations revealed one of the terrorists who carried out the attacks was carrying a Syrian passport and is believed to have come into Europe as part of a recent Syrian exodus.
Earlier this year, U.S. counterintelligence officials expressed concerns about opportunities for terrorists to hide within refugee populations in order to carry out attacks inside of Western countries.
By speaking out, Inslee chose a side in the hastening debate among governors over whether to support or oppose the Syrian resettlement plan, adding his name to a list of six Democratic governors supporting the president’s proposal.
“I stand firmly with President Obama who said this morning, ‘We do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism,’” Inslee said.
Inslee also asserted that he has very little power in the matter.
“It’s important to note that governors do not decide whether refugees come to their states. Those decisions are made by the federal government…,” Inslee said.
Washington State Chief Refugee Coordinator Sarah Peterson told us by email that the State Department plans to settle just over 3,000 refugees in Washington state during 2016, but that there has been no indication how many of those will be from Syria. A State Department spokesperson said that while there are no official projections on how the Syrian refugees will be allocated among the states next year, those decisions will be made in close coordination with state and local civil society organizations and government elected officials.
Inslee compared allowing Syrian refugees into Washington to former Gov. Dan Evans courageous decision to welcome refugees fleeing war-torn Vietnam in the 1970s. The comparison lacks clarity in any historical context.
It’s true that there were acts of terrorism inside the U.S. during the time Americans were at war with North Vietnam. That violence was undertaken by ultra-nationalist groups and homegrown terrorists such as the founder of both the Weather Underground and Pres. Barack Obama’s political career, Bill Ayers. But at no time were agents of communist Vietnam conducting attacks on the American homeland. And therein lies all the difference in the world.
Opposing the White House plan are 27 governors, including the Democratic governor of New Hamphire, Maggie Hassan. Kentucky Governor-Elect Matt Bevin is not included in that number, but has said he will oppose settlement in his state.
Immediate reactions on Twitter to Inslee’s statement were mixed. Some applauded the decision as a show of tolerance, while others characterized the Democratic chief executive as reckless.
[Note: Updates have been made to this story since original publication. The number of governors opposing the White House refugee plan increased from 19 to 27 and that information has been changed to reflect that fact.]