Massachusetts Daily Collegian

SGA votes down letter opposing Baker’s statements on refugees

By Stuart Foster

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(Shannon Broderick/ Daily Collegian)

(Shannon Broderick/ Daily Collegian)

The University of Massachusetts Student Government Association voted against endorsing a statement that would have challenged Gov. Charlie Baker’s announcement that Massachusetts will not allow any Syrian refugees to settle in Massachusetts until the Obama administration provides the state with more information in the wake of the Paris terror attacks.

While members of the SGA senate said they were not necessarily opposed to challenging Baker’s statements, many felt that the language used in the statement was too unprofessional and confrontational, with 72 percent of present senators voting against endorsing the letter on Monday.

“We find that (language) overly dramatic, unnecessary, informal,” Orchard Hill Governor Tristan Laliberte said. Orchard Hill government was present at the SGA meeting to express their opposition to the letter, and said they also represented the views of Southwest and Commonwealth Honors College residential areas.

While the undergraduate senate was originally reviewing the statement line by line in order to change the language used, SGA Senator Tyler O’Day, one of the motion’s sponsors, felt that the proposed motion would not be supported by the body regardless of which changes were made and suggested voting on the original letter instead of delaying the vote and changing the wording.

O’Day was the first to propose the statement of resolution to make clear that the UMass student body disagrees with, and will not support, Baker’s stance. Had the resolution been passed, the SGA would have sent the statement along with a letter detailing the position of the UMass student body directly to the governor.

“At a time in the United States where we’re having issues with inclusion, especially on college campuses, we see the governor’s remarks as being tone deaf,” O’Day said before the senate voted on the statement.

O’Day and other supporters of the resolution wished to communicate that while they understand the Baker’s caution, especially in the wake of a devastating attack on a Western nation, it should not be used as grounds to deny refuge to families fleeing from the same types of terror and destruction in their home country.

Baker is one of dozens of state governors who publicly opposed admitting Syrian refugees to the United States in the aftermath of the Paris attacks. He clarified Monday, though, that Massachusetts would still be admitting refugees, but that he continues to have questions about the vetting process.

The authority to admit refugees to the United States, however, is a power that rests with the federal government. States cannot refuse refugees, but they can make the resettlement process much more difficult should they oppose the admission of refugees.

Many students across campus expressed their disagreement with Baker’s statements.

“It isn’t just to refuse refugees safety here in Massachusetts,” Emily Bartone, a freshman environmental science major ,said.

“I definitely believe that we should allow refugees into our state, because we need to do what we can to help,” Nick Quinlivan, a freshman public health and health sciences major, said. “They are people, they deserve safety from their country and from what’s happening there with the war.”

The issue of Syrian refugees entering the United States has become prominent after a charred Syrian passport was found outside of the Stade de France, one of the sites of attacks during the events in Paris on Nov. 13.

The information offered on the passport matched that of a man who was registered as a refugee in the Greek island of Leros in October.

The passport is believed to be fake, with the original belonging to a soldier fighting for the Syrian government, although the French prosecutor’s office said that the fingerprints of the attacker match those belonging to the man who was registered in Leros.

Fake Syrian passports are currently being utilized by refugees from the Middle East for various reasons.

Refugees from other countries experiencing civil violence, such as Iraq and Yemen, sometimes buy fake Syrian passports to make the process of entering safer countries easier.

Syrian refugees who have lost their passports or did not possess passports before the start of the Syrian Civil War also use counterfeit passports to enter other countries.

Stuart Foster can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Stuart_C_Foster. Devinne Zadravec can be reached at [email protected]

3 Comments

3 Responses to “SGA votes down letter opposing Baker’s statements on refugees”

  1. Zac Bears on November 24th, 2015 11:28 am

    Lol is SGA actually this weak?

    “We find that (language) overly dramatic, unnecessary, informal.”

    Also, what was the vote margin?

  2. Larry Kelley on November 24th, 2015 12:35 pm

    I hope the protesters de jour crash the next SGA meeting and chant really, really loudly (something overly dramatic unnecessary and informal.)

  3. Stefan Herlitz on November 24th, 2015 1:20 pm

    Why not let the members go over the wording? Seems like they supported the sentiment, so the sponsors ought to have let them go over the wording in a recess so that it could reflect the body as a whole.

    Zac- the article indicates 72% against, so with full attendance that would be 36-14.

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