DENVER – U.S. Rep Scott Tipton is calling for closing the United States to Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, while Gov. John Hickenlooper said Colorado’s doors will remain open.
Tipton, a Cortez Republican, said there are too many security threats in light of the attacks in Paris on Friday, during which the Islamic State group took credit for hits on bars, restaurants, a concert hall and a stadium in which at least 129 people died.
At least one of the suspects entered Europe as a Syrian refugee, according to authorities. The suspect falsely identified himself as Syrian and entered through Greece.
“The risks posed to our national security by admitting tens of thousands of refugees from a war-torn region that is currently the global hotbed for terrorist activity are very real,” Tipton said in a statement.
On Thursday, the House ignored a veto threat and overwhelmingly approved Republican legislation erecting fresh hurdles for Syrian and Iraqi refugees trying to enter the United States.
Forty-seven Democrats joined all but two Republicans as the House passed the measure by a veto-proof 289-137 margin, a major setback to the lame duck president on an issue — what to do about the Islamic State and the refugees fleeing them — that shows no signs of settling down. The vote exceeded the two-thirds majority required to override a veto, and came despite a rushed, early morn The vote came after White House officials visited Congress and lobbied Democrats to oppose the legislation.
The Obama administration announced in September that 10,000 Syrians will be allowed entry next year.
The curbs in effect suspend the entry of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the U.S. for months. ing visit to the Capitol by top administration officials in a futile attempt to limit Democratic defections for the measure.
Critics of shutting out Syrians point to the war-torn region, where about 250,000 people have died since 2011. At least 9 million people have fled, making Syrians one of the world’s largest refugee populations.
Several Republican governors on Monday announced orders prohibiting Syrians from entering their states. But Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said Colorado would not be participating in the growing shutout.
“We can protect our security and provide a place where the world’s most vulnerable can rebuild their lives,” Hickenlooper said Monday in a statement.
Legal questions remain as to whether states even have the authority to block refugees who have been granted legal status by the federal government. Presumably, once legal status is granted, people can travel freely within the United States.
Right-leaning groups blasted the governor for not being more aggressive.
“Terrorism is not a light issue; it should be taken seriously and it is shameful, disturbing and unacceptable that our governor is bowing down to our lawless president with this dangerous open-door policy,” said Jonathan Lockwood, executive director of Advancing Colorado.
Tipton said the incident serves as a call to action, pointing out that there are no government records or databases in Syria to confirm the identities of the refugees who are being admitted. He assailed the governor for not taking action to block the refugees from entering Colorado.
“Governor Hickenlooper’s decision to ignore national security risks and accept Syrian refugees to Colorado is naïve and irresponsible,” Tipton added. “The Governor should first act in the best interest of the safety and security of the people of Colorado rather than jumping to back President Obama’s unilateral decision to accept tens of thousands of refugees into the United States from a region that is the global hotbed for terrorist activity.
“While most of these people are innocent and victims themselves, all it takes is one ISIS terrorist posing as an asylum seeker to come to the United States and inflict harm,” Tipton said, adding that legislative efforts are underway to halt allowing additional Syrian refugees into the country.
“While we all have empathy for the innocent victims of war who have been displaced in Syria, the U.S. government should not place the interest of refugees over the security of the American people.”
But left-leaning organizations said it is pointless to fight terrorism without highlighting humanitarian efforts.
“It is imperative that we not allow fear to stop us from showing compassion to refugees from the war-torn Middle East who desperately need assistance,” said Amy Runyon-Harms, executive director of ProgressNow Colorado. “The threats to our security we face can never be so great that we forsake our most basic humanitarian obligations. If we let that happen, then and only then have the terrorists truly won.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.