Marylanders don’t turn away those in need – including refugees

Despite our governor's ill-natured refusal to give refugees from war and devastation a place in Maryland, we are not that kind of people, activist Jean Athey says. Urge your legislators to sign on to a letter affirming our state's welcoming nature,

/By Jean Athey/ Thirty-one governors, including Maryland’s Governor Hogan, have claimed that their states are closed to any Syrian refugees.  Donald Trump wants to ban all Muslims from entering the country. But Gov. Hogan, Marylanders are not like that.

A new article in the Nation says that  “state lawmakers have begun to take up the issue [of Syrian refugees] in local legislatures. In South Dakota, one legislator plans to reintroduce a bill to ban refugees from the state . . .  Just this week, an Arizona House panel passed a measure that would purport to allow the state to deny entry to refugees. In Florida, state legislators are weighing a bill that would give the governor authority to use ‘military force’ against ‘invaders’ unless the refugee ‘was born in the Western Hemisphere.’” Is this the face Maryland shows to the world? We say no.

We are asking members of the Maryland General Assembly to “take up the issue”-- but on the other side. We want them to say that Maryland welcomes Syrian refugees.  The way to do this is through a “sign-on letter,” specifically the one that Sen. Jamie Raskin has written.  But if we want this to succeed as a political strategy, we need to get as many state senators and delegates to sign on as possible. To date, we know that we have 26 members of the General Assembly willing to sign.  Can you help us get more? We believe that all 126 Democrats should sign!

For this to happen, we need progressive and compassionate Marylanders to contact legislators, both by phone and by personal visit. At least 108 people have already sent emails, using our form, asking their representatives to sign the letter, but now we need a more personal approach—and we need to reach some particular people.  Can you help us?  Constituent pressure is the best way to persuade legislators to sign this letter!  Look for your legislators in the following lists and see who it is that you need to contact. You can find contact info here for your senator and delegates.

Those who have agreed to sign the letter (district number in parentheses):

These senators:  Brian Feldman (15), Guy Guzzone (13), Rich Madaleno (18), Roger Manno (19), Paul Pinsky (22), Jamie Raskin (20), Jim Rosapepe (21).

These delegates:  Kumar Barve (17), Kathleen Dumais (15), Eric Ebersole (12), Tawanna Gaines (22), Anne Healey (22), Terri Hill (12), Sheila Hixson (20), Stephen Lafferty (42A), Clarence Lam (12), Eric Luedtke (14), Aruna Miller (15), David Moon (20), Joseline Pena-Melnyk (21), Kirill Reznik (39), Shane Robinson (39), Will Smith (20), Dana Stein (11), Jimmy Tarlau (47A), Frank Turner (13), Alonzo Washington (22).

Those who have made public statements supportive of refugees and whom we therefore believe would be willing to sign the letter with just a little bit more pressure from their constituents:

Senator Ronald Young (3), and Delegates Angela Angel (25), Ben Barnes (21), Benjamin Brooks (10), Dereck Davis (37A), Shelly Hettleman (11), Brook Lierman (46), Sheree Sample-Hughes (37A).

Those who have received a significant number of e-mails but who have not yet agreed to sign the letter—they should be called and asked why they haven’t yet agreed to sign it:

District 12:  Sen. Edward Kasemeyer District 13: Delegates Vanessa Atterbeary, Shane Pendergrass District 14:  Sen. Craig Zucker, Delegate Anne Kaiser District 16:  Sen. Susan Lee, Delegates William Frick, Ariana Kelly, Marc Korman District 17: Sen. Cheryl Kagan, Delegates Jim Gilchrist, Andrew Platt District 18: Delegates Alfred Carr, AnaSol Gutierrez, Jeff Waldstreicher District 19: Delegates Bonnie Cullison, Ben Kramer, Marice Morales District 21: Delegates Ben Barnes, Barbara Frush District 42:  Sen. James Brochin, Delegates Susan Aumann, Chris West

We hope volunteers will reach out to their own representatives, as well as other Democrats in their counties and around Maryland, who have not yet signed and encourage them to sign onto Sen. Raskin's letter ASAP!

As Phyllis Bennis writes, “We are a huge and wealthy country, with space and money and compassion.”  Despite the millions of Syrians fleeing for their lives—something we bear much responsibility for—the U.S. has only accepted 841. Let’s show that we do, in fact, have compassion. Can’t you help us?

Jean Athey is a leader of Peace Action Montgomery and of Maryland Welcomes Refugees.