LANHAM – Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III has taken a hard stance against Gov. Larry Hogan’s request to the federal government to cease additional settlements of Syrian refugees in the state of Maryland. Many of the Syrian refugees fleeing their country are children trying to escape the atrocities of war, Baker said. They […]
LANHAM – Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III has taken a hard stance against Gov. Larry Hogan’s request to the federal government to cease additional settlements of Syrian refugees in the state of Maryland.
Many of the Syrian refugees fleeing their country are children trying to escape the atrocities of war, Baker said. They are seeking refuge in the United States for their safety.
“Americans have been discussing what we should do about Syrian refugees. As Prince George’s County Executive, I lend my voice and stand with President (Barack) Obama in allowing the Syrian refugees to come to the United States after heightened screening,” Baker said.
Attacks in Paris, France have left elected officials across the country and around the world in a state of high security. The attacks killed 130 people and left 368 people injured.
The U.S. State Department issued a global travel alert on Nov. 23 for those planning to travel throughout the holidays. Hogan’s request to cease allowing Syrian refugees into the country came just days after the initial attack in Paris.
“As governor of Maryland, the safety and security of Marylanders remains my first priority,” Hogan said in a statement released just four days after the tragic attacks in Paris. “I am now requesting that federal authorities cease any additional settlements of refugees from Syria in Maryland.”
Baker said the attacks have heightened the country’s awareness as national security on all levels of government becomes the focus. In Prince George’s County, he said, safety agencies have been working in concert with regional, state and federal entities to ensure the safety of the county’s citizens.
But still, Baker said, Americans cannot forgo the principles that made the country into what it is today.
“In our quest to provide security, we must not forgo our principles and ideals as Americans,” Baker said. “We must not govern under a culture of fear where political opportunism outweighs our humanity and civility.”
According to data acquired from the Census Buerau of Prince George’s County’s population until 2013, 20 percent of the population is foreign born. According to a study done in 2011 by the state’s Department of Legislative Services, 65.5 percent of immigrant residents moving into Maryland live within Prince George’s, Montgomery and Frederick counties.
After Hogan’s statement, protestors traveled to the state house to voice their displeasure with his decision. The governors in 31 other states, including Texas, Georgia, Michigan, Alabama and Florida, have taken the same stance as Hogan on the issue.
According to an online White House petition to grant asylum to Syrian refugees submitted in August by George Batah, a Syrian immigrant, there have been less than 1,000 allowed into the United States. In contrast, the petition said, Germany is expected to grant 800,000 refugees asylum in their country.
President Obama said the country would be accepting 10,000 Syrian refugees because of ongoing civil war in Syria after the petition was submitted to the White House. Obama continued to defend the effort to bring Syrian refugees into the country after the attack on Paris.
“We are not well served when in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic,” Obama said in a news conference at the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in the Philippines.
United States Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), representing Maryland, said every elected official’s priority should be the safety of all Americans and everything that can be done to verify people allowed in the country is already being done. Hogan and other officials should have reached out to the federal government for more information before making their statements, he said.
“I take very strongly the responsibility to make sure these security screenings prevent terrorists from entering our country,” Cardin said.
Baker said any residents who have concerns over potential hazardous situations in the county should use the “Alert Prince George’s” text alert system and adhere to the “see something, say something” civic engagement campaign for reporting any suspicious activity.
United States Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD), who represents Maryland and portions of Prince George’s County, said Hogan’s refusal to resettle refugees escaping violence is against the values of both Marylanders and Americans.
Throughout the country’s history, Edwards said, the doors have been open to those who are fleeing war and persecution. The United States is a country filled with immigrants, she said, with more than one million immigrants entering the country from the Middle East since 1980.
Edwards said the country must remember its true enemy is the Islamic State, not the refugees who are fleeing the region.
“I believe strongly that as Americans we cannot deny people shelter and safety based on stereotyping and xenophobia,” Edwards said. “We have the ability and the resources to welcome refugees while taking all necessary steps to ensure our own security.”