November 18, 2015

Martinez joins White House call on refugees

The White House South facade. Wikicommons

Governors from around the country joined a call with White House officials regarding the United States’ plan to accept up to 10,000 Syrian refugees.

The White House South facade. Wikicommons

The White House South facade. Wikicommons

Gov. Susana Martinez joined the call, according to reports from the Associated Press and KVIA-TV. In all, the White House said that 36 governors participated to the call led by White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.

Spokesmen for Martinez did not respond to requests for comment or questions about the call left on voicemail and email.

According to the White House, which released information about the call to the media, 13 of the governors asked questions on the call, which lasted nearly 90 minutes. The call described the vetting and security process for refugees.

NM Political Report asked the Martinez administration if she asked any questions and if she was satisfied by what she was told by the officials on the call.

If Martinez’s office responds to the requests sent Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, we will add them to this post.

Previously, Martinez joined with more than half of governor in the U.S. who said they would not accept Syrian refugees. Governors have very little legal recourse to stop refugees from being placed in their states, thanks to federal laws, but they can make things more difficult.

Both U.S. Senators from New Mexico, both Democrats, criticized the response to placing Syrian refugees.

Tom Udall called for a balanced approach to Syrian refugees and said that anything to do with refugees should not be included in spending legislation.

“Knee-jerk, fear-driven policies that would deny help to desperate children and innocent families are contrary to America’s history and values and have no place in a must-pass bill to keep our government operating,” Udall said.

Martin Heinrich was more critical of the response. He said that those who are considered for refugee status should go through full vetting and security checks.

“However, 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,” Heinrich said.

A slew of White House officials joined the call. Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration Simon Henshaw and Deputy Director of the FBI Mark Giuliano all particpated in the call.

The White House also said that representatives from the National Counterterrorism Center and the Department of Health and Human Services were on the call.

On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico criticized Martinez for her recent take on the Syrian refugee situation, calling it “fearmongering.”

“We were dismayed to hear Governor Martinez opposes the plan to provide refuge to some of the Syrian families who are fleeing the same kind of terror we saw inflicted on Paris,”ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson said in a statement. “Governor Martinez knows full well that the United States has a rigorous and multi-layered security screening program already in place for refugee resettlement that includes background checks by multiple agencies. Refugees undergo biometric tests, medical screenings, and in-person interview with Department of Homeland Security officials.”

On Tuesday, Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales criticized those who want to stop the Syrian refugees from entering the country.

“In the face of terror it is easy to forget who we are,” Gonzales wrote on Facebook. “I don’t think New Mexicans or Americans want to go down that road, and our leaders should stand up and call on the better angels of our human nature to help make sure we never do.”