In a stand met with both praise and criticism, Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales is calling on Gov. Susana Martinez to welcome Syrian refugees to New Mexico.
“The people fleeing Syria now are in some of the darkest days of their lives, running from the very terrorism we seek to fight,” Gonzales wrote in a Facebook post Monday. “Basic American values call on us not to bar the way or abandon them to their fate.”
Martinez joined several other Republican governors Monday in opposing President Barack Obama’s plan to accept any more Syrian refugees until a more vigorous screening process was in place.
“The governor strongly opposes the Obama administration’s plan to accept more Syrian refugees until there is a very clear plan in place to properly vet and place the refugees, and the voices of governors and the public can be heard,” Martinez’s spokesman, Michael Lonergan, said in a statement.
The nation’s governors have little say on the matter because the president has the power to accept refugees under the Refugee Act of 1980. But Gonzales, a Democrat, used his position to bring attention to the issue and outline his differences with Martinez, a Republican.
“It has been heartbreaking to watch governor after governor refuse to come to the aid of a world in crisis,” Gonzales wrote on the Facebook post. “Considering our history and our culture, I expected and hoped for better from our own leaders, but have been disappointed to see nothing but fear, xenophobia and isolation in response to the inhuman acts of terror perpetrated in Paris.”
The mayor’s comments generated mixed opinions.
“It is indeed disheartening to see those who love to talk about Christian values shrink from those values when it is time to live them,” Sherman Peterson wrote on the mayor’s Facebook thread.
A few others expressed concerns about their safety.
“I stand with Governor Martinez. #KeepNewMexicoSafe,” Victor Montoya wrote.
In September, Gonzales joined 17 other mayors — all part of the Cities United for Immigration Action coalition — in writing a letter commending Obama for his decision to “open America’s doors to at least 10,000 Syrian refugees displaced by civil war.” The mayors urged the president to increase the number.
“The United States is in a position to lead a global narrative of inclusion and support,” their letter stated.
“I stand by that,” Gonzales wrote on Facebook.
Meanwhile, New Mexico’s two Democratic U.S. senators issued separate statements on the issue.
Sen. Martin Heinrich said, “Syrian refugees must be subject to the highest levels of vetting and scrutiny.”
“However,” Heinrich added, “the implicit assumption that Syrian refugees — many of whom have suffered terribly at the hands of ISIS — are a threat because of their country of origin is a rejection of American values and represents giving in to our worst ethnic and religious prejudices.”
Sen. Tom Udall urged the president, Congress and the nation’s governors “to follow a balanced, fact-based approach to the issues regarding refugees fleeing terrorism and violence in Syria.”
Contact Daniel J. Chacón at 986-3089 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @danieljchacon.