“We will welcome the Syrian families to make homes and new lives in our cities,” reads the letter, a copy of which was sent to RI Future from Diossa.
“Indeed, we are writing to say that we stand ready to work with your Administration to do much more and to urge you to increase still further the number of Syrian refugees the United States will accept for resettlement,” it reads. “The surge of humanity fleeing war and famine is the largest refugee crisis since World War II. The United States is in a position to lead a global narrative of inclusion and support. This is a challenge we can meet, and the undersigned mayors stand ready to help you meet it.”
There are at least 4 million Syrian refugees fleeing civil war and the oppressive ruling regime, and many million more fleeing similar strife in other Middle Eastern and African nations. The exodus has been called the greatest refuge crisis since World War II and the sheer volume of refugees has overwhelmed Europe. The United States, which has accepted only 1,500 Syrian refugees in four years of civil war, has been criticized for not doing more.
Diossa joins the mayors of Boston, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Hartford, Conn., Santa Fe, NM, Syracuse, NY, Clarkston Georgia, Paterson, NJ and others in signing the letter. No other Rhode Island mayors signed the letter.
Central Falls has several connections to Syria already. In the early part of the 20th century, many of the Syrian refugees fleeing the Turks settled in Central Falls, according to this official history of migration into Rhode Island. There’s even a Catholic church in Central Falls that was founded by Syrian immigrants in 1907, according to this article in the Rhode Island Catholic. And former CF Mayor Tom Lazieh is of Syrian decent, according to this 2013 Providence Journal article.
Tara Granahan, of WPRO, tweeted about the letter earlier today.
This is the letter in its entirety, as well as the signers:
Dear President Obama:
We commend your decision to open America’s doors to at least 10,000 Syrian refugees displaced by civil war, and applaud your commitment to increase the overall number of refugees the U.S. will resettle over the course of the next two years. This announcement is a vital initial step to honoring America’s commitment to support those fleeing oppression.
As the mayors of cities across the country, we see first-hand the myriad ways in which immigrants and refugees make our communities stronger economically, socially and culturally. We will welcome the Syrian families to make homes and new lives in our cities. Indeed, we are writing to say that we stand ready to work with your Administration to do much more and to urge you to increase still further the number of Syrian refugees the United States will accept for resettlement. The surge of humanity fleeing war and famine is the largest refugee crisis since World War II. The United States is in a position to lead a global narrative of inclusion and support. This is a challenge we can meet, and the undersigned mayors stand ready to help you meet it.
Our cities have been transformed by the skills and the spirit of those who come to us from around the world. The drive and enterprise of immigrants and refugees have helped build our economies, enliven our arts and culture, and enrich our neighborhoods.
We have taken in refugees, and will help make room for thousands more. This is because the United States has developed a robust screening and background check that assures us that we know who we are welcoming into this country. With national security systems in place, we stand ready to support the Administration in increasing the numbers of refugees we can accept.
With Pope Francis’ visit, we are mindful of his call for greater compassion in the face of this ongoing crisis and stand with you in supporting those “journeying towards the hope of life.”
Ed Pawlowski, Mayor of Allentown, PA
Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Mayor of Baltimore, MD
Martin J. Walsh, Mayor of Boston, MA
James Diossa, Mayor of Central Falls, RI
Mark Kleinschmidt, Mayor of Chapel Hill, NC
Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago, IL
Edward Terry, Mayor of Clarkston, GA
Nan Whaley, Mayor of Dayton, OH
Domenick Stampone, Mayor of Haledon, NJ
Pedro E. Segarra, Mayor of Hartford, CT
Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles, CA
Betsy Hodges, Mayor of Minneapolis, MN
Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York City, NY
Jose Torres, Mayor of Paterson, NJ
William Peduto, Mayor of Pittsburgh, PA
Javier Gonzales, Mayor of Santa Fe, NM
Francis G. Slay, Mayor of St. Louis, MO
Stephanie A. Miner, Mayor of Syracuse, NY