Gov. Andrew Cuomo distanced himself from an increasing number of governors across the country denouncing a federal commitment to bring in 10,000 Syrian refugees.
"Where does it say in the state constitution you can refuse a person placed by the federal government?" Cuomo asked on Tuesday in a conversation at Harvard University.
"What are you going to have your militia fight the federal government at the borders of your state? It's a pure political statement," he added.
Almost 2,000 refugees from Syria have been placed across the United States since conflict broke out in the country in 2012, and the Obama administration repeated its commitment to bring in at least 10,000 in total.
Some 26 governors announced by late Tuesday that they would not cooperate with the Obama administration's plan, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Cuomo didn't invoke any of his fellow governors specifcially but did mention another GOP presidential candidate to point out ramifications of rejecting Syrian refugees.
"The next time you have Donald Trump on the podium he's just going to rattle off 'Syrian refugees' and the whole line of he's going to have them with the Mexicans," Cuomo said. "And it will just blend into the larger question of, 'We have economic problems, they're stealing our jobs, they're too expensive. These immigrants that we coming in, we can't pay for their health care, we can't pay for their education. They're stealing the bottom-end jobs. Kick them out.'
And the Syrian refugees are part of that."
Beyond the lack of authority by governors to block refugees, Cuomo said accepting immigrants escaping Syria is part of the American dream.
"We have to protect Americans and not lose our soul as America in the process," the governor said. "The day America says, 'Close the gates, build the wall,' then I say take down the Statue of Liberty because you've gone to a different place."