Tobin: RI ‘would be wrong’ to turn away Syrian refugees

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence Thomas Tobin spoke out Monday against those who want Rhode Island to turn away refugees from Syria in the wake of last week’s Paris terror attacks.

“It would be wrong for our nation and our state to refuse to accept refugees simply because they are Syrian or Muslim,” Tobin said in a statement issued Monday night.

“Obviously the background of all those crossing our borders should be carefully reviewed for reasons of security,” he said. “Too often in the past, however, our nation has erroneously targeted individuals as dangerous simply because of their nationality or religion.”

The bishop’s comments came amid a heated debate locally and nationally over the wisdom of allowing Syrian refugees to resettle in the United States.

Two Republican state representatives – Bobby Nardolillo and Doreen Costa – on Monday urged Gov. Gina Raimondo to reverse her earlier support for allowing Syrian refugees into Rhode Island, while their Democratic colleague Aaron Regunberg and the ACLU pressed her not to change course.

Raimondo said she will review the details of any request if and when it comes from the White House. A significant number of other governors, including Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, have ruled out accepting more Syrian refugees due to security concerns.

Tobin has a direct stake in the controversy since the Catholic diocese is one of two organizations, along with the Dorcas International Institute, that works to resettle refugees in Rhode Island.

“In these turbulent times, it is important that prudence not be replaced by hysteria,” Tobin said Monday. “As is our well-established practice, the Diocese of Providence stands ready to assist in a careful and thoughtful process of refugee resettlement.”

Pope Francis has repeatedly and strongly urged developed countries to do more for those affected by the Syrian conflict. In September, the pope called on every parish in Europe – which has been flooded with migrants fleeing the region – to take in one refugee family.

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