Less than 24 hours after Bill de Blasio avoided answering questions about where he stood on his previously stated support for United States welcoming Syrian refugees, the mayor said he would welcome them.
“We should not close our borders to any group of people fleeing the atrocities and horrors of terrorism,” de Blasio said in a written statement to reporters. “To do so is to hand terrorists a victory over our democracy, strengthened over the years by Americans who died or risked their lives for it.”
The statement came shortly after City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito vocalized her opposition to a growing call from conservative leaders to shut Syrian refugees out of American borders out of fears the Islamic State extremists could sneak in.
In an interview with WNYC, Mark-Viverito said the United States’ evaluation process for refugee applications is comprehensive and done so differently than in European countries.
“It’s a moment for us to really speak up and demonstrate our collective decency as a country,” the speaker said. “We know that we are built as a nation that has welcomed immigrants fleeing persecution, and that is what’s happening in the case of these refugees.”
Earlier this year, de Blasio was one of 18 leaders from cities around the country who pressed President Barack Obama to accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees escaping the war-torn nation.
The investigation following Friday’s coordinated attacks in Paris that killed at least 129 led authorities to find a Syrian passport they originally believed to a man who applied for refugee status.
Presidential candidate and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie spoke out in opposition to the Obama administration’s refugee policy. Asked by a radio host if he would accept even “orphans under the age of five,” Christie stood firm.
“The fact is that we need appropriate vetting,” Christie said, “and I don’t think orphans under five are being should be admitted into the United States at this point.”
In a statement, de Blasio called Christie’s comment “an embarrassment to this country” as well as “callous, heartless and prejudiced.”
“We can protect our country with the appropriate and intensive screening and accept refugees seeking our protection at the same time,” de Blasio added regarding refugees. “New York City is a proud immigrant city, and we will not turn our back on that history or the people being persecuted and fleeing war.”