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Cambridge Council, Students Resolve To Support Refugees

By Claire E. Parker, Crimson Staff Writer

The Cambridge City Council voted on a resolution several weeks ago condemning Massachusetts Governor Charles D. Baker ’79 for his public statement against the state allowing Syrian refugees to enter. Meanwhile, at Harvard, students have organized events over the past week to support refugees.

Following terrorist attacks in Paris in November, Baker joined 30 other governors in announcing that they would not accept refugees in their states, citing security concerns. However, governors do not have the constitutional authority to bar refugees from entering their states.

The issue became local on Nov. 23, when the Cambridge City Council unanimously passed a resolution opposing Baker’s comments and calling on Cambridge residents to take in refugees. Many Harvard students across party lines said they support the Council vote.

“As a Massachusetts native I was disappointed to hear that Governor Baker has refused to accept Syrian refugees,” Susan X. Wang ’17, the incoming president of the Harvard Democrats, wrote in an email. “The Cambridge City Council's vote against his statement is an important one, both because we have an obligation to help those fleeing a humanitarian crisis, and because it represents a rejection of the increasingly anti-Muslim rhetoric that surrounds this issue.”

John S. Acton ’17, a member of the Harvard Republican Club, also condemned Baker’s stance on refugees, since he believes current refugee screening practices are sufficiently rigorous. However, he said he found the City Council vote unnecessary, as Baker does not have the authority to reject refugees. He also took issue with the rhetoric used against Baker at the Council meeting.

“I think there’s room for people to legitimately disagree on the issue, but I don’t think that makes Governor Baker a hateful person,” he said.

Beyond supporting the Council resolution, some Harvard students are taking action themselves to help refugees. Syrian student Tala Atassi ’18 co-founded the Harvard College Syrian Humanitarian League last year to raise money and support for the cause. The League held a benefit concert last weekend to raise funds specifically for refugee children, and Atassi said the group is planning another event in the spring in collaboration with the Institute of Politics.

The International Relations Council held a community meeting Wednesday for College and high school students in the Harvard Program for International Education. The aim of the event was to discuss solutions to the refugee crisis and equip attendees with strategies for contacting their congressional representatives to urge them to support refugees.

“We felt that we’ve seen a lot of informational events, but what’s been lacking is action response,” said Sophia Lugo ’17, IRC chief strategist, who helped organize the event. “We tried to get people to see the problem as a personal issue. This is not just a policy issue, these are real people.”

—Staff writer Claire E. Parker can be reached at Follow her @claireparkerdc.

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