Hassan's Stance On Syrian Refugees Draws Cool Response From Democrats

Nov 19, 2015

Maggie Hassan
Credit Paige Sutherland for NHPR

Governor Hassan’s stance on Syrian refugees aims to be calibrated.

Unlike some Governors, Hassan isn’t presuming to tell Washington New Hampshire won’t accept refugees.

And unlike others, she’s not accusing leaders who want to stop taking refugees of fear mongering.

Instead, Hassan is plotting, what, right now, is a lonely course: trying to explain, if not sell, something resembling a middle ground.

“When I’ve had discussion with people it’s been very clear that they have misunderstood my stance, among other things. I think it’s very important that we be very clear, what I’m calling for is a pause, because the first job of every government is to keep people safe, that includes immigrants and refugees who are here. And if we don’t have safety we cannot have a free society.”

Trawl the statehouse, though, and it’s a challenge to find a democrat who supports the governor’s views on Syrian refugee resettlement.

I spoke to two dozen and found none. Few would talk on tape. Those who did were mostly loath to spell out a clear opinion.

“I’m not going to, this is, I’m not going to take a position on this one, one way or the other, I’m going to stay away. “

That’s the Senate’s top democrat, Jeff Woodburn of Dalton. Here’s the House’s ranking democrat, Steve Shurtleff, of Concord.

“I’m actually somewhat indifferent. She raised concerns that I think are being addressed in Washington. “

But not all in Hassan’s party are so circumspect.

“I think based on our values, and I think our shared values is that when a dictator is killing his own people that we as America accept them in.”

David Pierce is a  Senator from Lebanon,  

“You look back to 1939, the ss, whatever the name of the ship was, that had the Jewish refugees from Germany, and Cuba didn’t take them, we didn’t take them, they went back, and a good portion of them was killed in the concentration camps. This sort of xenophobic reaction is no different.”  

Right now, NH is home to 3 Syrian refugees.

Another 20 are slated to arrive by next fall.

Neither lawmakers, nor the governor, have any official say when it comes to refugees.

All policy is set federally.

Yet one local government body has weighed in on Hassan’s position: The Manchester board of Alderman.

It voted Tuesday to reject a resolution supporting Hassan’s call for a freeze on refugees. Manchester Democrat Pat Long is an Alderman and a state rep.

“I don’t agree with the governor’s position, I just don’t. I’ve got a lot of respect for the governor, I do not support it. I see it clearly as a political statement.”

The view that Hassan position on refugees is driven by her run for U.S. Senate is pervasive at the state house. Democrat Jane Beaulieu, also represents Manchester.  

“I think is a political move because she’s running for Ayotte’s seat. Yeah, I’m very disappointed.”

The Governor, for her part, says it’s honoring the duties of her current job, -- and not winning what she hopes will be her next -- that remains her top priority. But how she navigates this issue may end up being relevant to both.