Today, Governor Gina M. Raimondo released the following statement on Syrian refugees:
"Rhode Islanders join people from around the world in condemning the devastating terrorist attacks last week in Paris. In the light of these attacks, my absolute top priority is keeping our families safe. While we are not aware of any specific threats here in Rhode Island, I continue to coordinate closely with State Police Colonel Stephen O'Donnell as our Homeland Security advisor and we remain vigilant.
"People are afraid -- I understand that. But at the same time as we focus on our security, we must not lose sight that there are families desperately fleeing oppression and terrorism. We cannot let fear dictate our actions or make us lose sight of the people struggling at the very heart of this. This whole discussion needs more humanity, more peace.
"The White House has reiterated plans to welcome additional refugees from Syria next year, with robust screening and security procedures in place. These refugees will be subject to some of the most stringent security screening of anyone entering our country. The process could take up to two years, and refugees can't travel to the U.S. until they've cleared all checks. After these screenings take place, if the federal government asks Rhode Island to host refugees fleeing violence and terror in Syria or anywhere else, we will welcome them with compassion – as we always have.
"The United States does not close its doors to those seeking a better, safer future in times of crisis. And despite the political rhetoric, Governors and state legislatures have no authority to turn away refugees because the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction regarding refugees. Even if states did, that action would be a rejection of the principle of tolerance our state and our country were founded on.
"As we approach Thanksgiving, it's a good time to remember how much we have to be thankful for, to give back, and to make our country stronger. Rhode Island will do so with calm and compassion."