AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage said Monday that he will oppose any effort by the federal government to settle Syrian refugees in Maine after Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris.
LePage joined other Republican governors in condemning President Barack Obama’s goal of accepting 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year, saying to do so “without knowing who they are is to invite an attack on American soil just like the one we saw in Paris last week.”
“That is why I adamantly oppose any attempt by the federal government to place Syrian refugees in Maine,” he said in a statement on Monday afternoon, “and will take every lawful measure in my power to prevent it from happening.”
LePage’s formal opposition to resettling Syrian refugees in Maine came after conflicting statements from LePage and his office on Monday, when Republican governors announced they wouldn’t be helping Obama achieve his goal.
LePage’s stance is largely symbolic. Governors can’t refuse refugees and have little authority on immigration, which is controlled by the federal government. Only one Syrian refugee has settled in Maine since 2014 and new arrivals wouldn’t come for at least a year, according to Catholic Charities, which settles new refugees in Maine for the federal government.
More than 4 million Syrian refugees have fled their country, which is in the midst of a civil war. Of those, 150,000 Syrian refugees are declaring asylum in European Union countries, according to the Migration Policy Centre in Italy.
That war has been complicated by the Islamic State, the terrorist group that claimed responsibility for the attacks that killed 129 in Paris and has taken over large swaths of Syria and Iraq. The Greek government has said one attacker passed through their country with a group of 69 refugees in October.
In Turkey on Monday, Obama called Syrian refugees “the people most harmed by terrorism” and warned against “equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism” in a speech in Turkey on Monday, when the Democrat’s State Department rejected a call from congressional Republicans to halt plans to admit more Syrian refugees.
LePage’s statement clarified two different messages from his office earlier on Monday.
His weekly radio address criticized Obama’s plan, but it didn’t say whether he would join other governors in fighting resettlement efforts. However, he told reporters on Monday that his position is the “same thing” and he’s “with them” because he’s “concerned for Maine people.”
Alison Beyea, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, said the group was “saddened by calls from our governor and others to turn our back on the world’s most vulnerable people.”
“If we shut out refugees fleeing the horror and violence of extremists in Syria, we are refusing to help the victims of the very terrorism we decry,” she said in a statement.