ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A New York assemblyman sent a letter to the governor asking him to speak out about bringing Syrian refugees to New York.
Refugees seeking asylum from war torn countries is at an all-time high. In 2005, 37.5 million refugees were displaced. That number increased by 22 million last year.
For some local lawmakers, their concerns are making sure the people currently living in the U.S. stay safe.
Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin wants Gov. Andrew Cuomo to restrict New York’s borders and disclose information about how many Syrian refugees would find safety in the state. He said there needs to be a proper vetting process for those seeking asylum to make sure current citizens stay safe.
“It’s not about being anti-immigrant or anti-refugee, it’s about saying my main concern – and this governor’s main concern – should be security and safety of our residents,” he said.
Assemblyman John McDonald agrees. He said the screening process needs to be thorough, but he doesn’t feel good about turning refugees away.
“To just automatically say no and push people away, I think, it’s very premature to be making that judgment at this stage of the game, and it’s not really what America is about,” McDonald said.
More than half of the governors from across the country have said ‘no’ to Syrian refugees, and only seven have said they’ll allow Syrians to take asylum. Gov. Cuomo let his opinion known on Tuesday.
“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,” he said.
Local lawmakers have also taken a stand. Some said allowing Syrians to seek asylum in New York comes with a high risk.
“The problem we’re facing is that you have terrorists from ISIS that say they are embedding within these refugees,” McLaughlin said.
“We are now living in a day where we are on high alert every single day,” McDonald siad.
Others agree but also said there needs to be a thorough process to screen refugees to ensure the safety of New Yorkers.
“A process to vet that we can look at, accept, and be safe at the same time,” Sen. Neil Breslin said.
“We need to do everything possible to secure and protect our citizens in the state of New York,” Sen. George Amedore said.
Ultimately, accepting or turning away refugees is a federal decision.
The U.S. can expect to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year.