Protesters plan to rally outside of the state house on Friday evening, calling on Gov. Charlie Baker to change his tune on whether or not the Bay State should house refugees fleeing the violence in Syria.
While Baker’s position is purely symbolic — all matters regarding immigration are handled on the federal level) —he said that he “is not interested in accepting refugees from Syria.” As of Tuesday, Baker joined a list of 31 other conservative governors in opposition to welcoming refugees.
“I would say no as of right now,” Baker said to reporters at the Statehouse on Monday. “I’m not interested in accepting refugees from Syria. I would need to know a lot more than I know now before I agree to do anything.”
Local activists intend to call Baker out on his position, hoping to spread a message of amnesty.
“Baker knows that he has no real say, this is about scoring political points,” rally planner Khury Petersen-Smith of the International Socialist Organization said. “He does not have the power to decide federal immigration policy. It’s dangerous to have governors get up and say that they do have the power to go above the federal law like we saw in the Civil Rights era. We know how that played out.”
Even following the deadly attacks carried out in Paris by ISIS, some of who may have posed as refugees, French President Francois Hollande said that France would accept 30,000 refugees because “life must go on.”
“It is a very sad issue,” Henri Hajj, a refugee from the 15-year-long civil war in Lebanon in which the Syrian army was heavily involved, said. “A lot of people are suffering. I understand the concern, but there are many people who are in need and are desperate. They have nowhere to go at all.”
Hajj now works at Boston College in the tech department, but fled Beirut in 1979, four years into the Lebanese Civil War and three years after Syria entered the conflict.
“You have ISIS on one side, Asad on the other,” Hajj said. “It is a nightmare. It’s hard to tell which side is worse.”
Hajj said that he believes that ISIS does not want the refugees to be welcomed in the United States.
“I understand the resistance in accepting these people,” Hajj said. “But to penalize the whole group of people fleeing is a death sentence. These people are fleeing the people who attacked Paris and many other places in the world. There is already so much suffering from years of struggle. But children are the victims here, families are the victims.”
The rally is set to kick off outside the Statehouse at 6:30 p.m.