U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton has provided the most prominent and personal criticism of Gov. Charlie Baker’s opposition to accepting Syrian refugees since Monday.
Moulton, a former Marine Corps officer who served in Iraq and is currently on the House Armed Services Committee, began his barbs with a tweet on Monday afternoon.
It's a shame that Governor Baker doesn't know the difference between refugees and those from whom they need refuge.— Seth Moulton (@sethmoulton) November 16, 2015
“It’s a shame that Governor Baker doesn’t know the difference between refugees and those from whom they need refuge,’’ he tweeted.
Upon being informed of Moulton’s criticism, Baker told The Boston Globe reporter David Scharfenberg he was disappointed that “a serious guy like that went straight to the partisan talking points.’’
“I doubt that Congressman Moulton actually heard my whole statement, because if he did, I can’t believe that’s what he would have said,’’ Baker said.
At another point in Baker’s press conference, he said he stood by his earlier stated position.
“I’m not going to walk back anything I said yesterday,’’ Baker said. “I can’t help it if somebody chose to use a phrase instead of a sentence with a way they chose to report what I actually said.’’
Moulton responded with another tweet directed at Baker.
“My American values and Marine Corps experience are not ‘partisan talking points.’ @MassGovernor should know better,’’ he tweeted.
Moulton continued his criticism on MSNBC late Tuesday night, though he didn’t personally name Baker.
“Shutting the door on the very people who ISIS is trying to target is playing right into the enemy’s hands,’’ Moulton said. “It’s un-American, it’s immoral, and it’s not going to lead to the defeat of ISIS.’’
The back-and-forth came a day after Baker said he would refuse to accept Syrian refugees into the Commonwealth until he received more information on resettling them, a response to the heightened security fears after the Paris terrorist attacks.
“No, I’m not interested in accepting refugees from Syria,’’ Baker said on Monday. “I think at this point in time we would have to be very cautious about accepting folks without knowing a lot more about what the federal government’s plan looks like and how it would actually be implemented and executed.’’
Legally and constitutionally, the job of vetting and resettling foreign refugees belongs to the federal government. It’s not clear if Baker, or the many other governors who have made similar statements, can actually block refugees from coming to their states.
Moulton picked up on that point in a tweet Wednesday morning, saying “it’s unclear what the Gov even meant.’’
That's right. We live in a free country without border fences between states so it's unclear what the Gov even meant https://t.co/sZ0jqIXpSz— Seth Moulton (@sethmoulton) November 18, 2015
To be admitted, potential refugees must first apply for official refugee status to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, which can then refer them to the U.S. A federally funded group called the Resettlement Support Center then further vets the applicant, which takes on average 18 to 24 months.
Moulton certainly isn’t the only Democrat repeatedly criticizing Baker. Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone said Baker and other governors were “wrong’’ in opposing Syrian refugees, he wrote in an op-ed in Commonwealth on Tuesday.
“ISIS wants to strike out at tolerant, inclusive societies. It views our ability to live together, to freely associate with one another as a threat to its shuttered, xenophobic philosophies,’’ Curtatone wrote. “Yet now we have a chance to prove the mettle of our free, open societies.’’
France, the site of the attack that killed more than 130 people, has done no such scaling back of its acceptance of Syrian refugees. President Francois Hollande reiterated his commitment to welcoming 30,000 refugees in the coming two years, he said on Wednesday.
“France will remain a country of freedom,’’ he said.
Gallery: Photos of the Syrian refugee crisis