Rhode Island was founded by refugees looking to flee religious persecution in England, but now a lawmaker from that state is urging her governor to put Syrian refugees into camps “segregated from our populous” if the state is called to act as host.
In an email sent on Tuesday to other state senators and obtained by the local WPRI news channel, Rhode Island State Sen. Elaine Morgan (R) wrote that she didn’t want RI Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) to accept Syrian refugees in part because she believes that it’s a “major plan” to “spread out their people to attack all non Muslim persons.”
“The Muslim religion and philosophy is to murder, rape, and decapitate anyone who is a non Muslim,” Morgan continued.
“If we need to take these people in we should set up [a] refugee camp to keep them segregated from our populous [sic],” she suggested in her email. “I think the protection of our US citizens and the United States of America should be the most important issue here.”
The White House hasn’t asked Rhode Island to take in refugees yet, but Raimondo said that it was under consideration.
On Wednesday, Morgan explained that she meant to only characterize “fanatical” Muslim religion and philosophy and attributed the error to having “just bought a new smartphone and being unfamiliar with its voice transcription function,” WPRI noted. But Morgan still stood by her idea of segregating refugees from the general population. She further emphasized on Wednesday, “We have veterans in the streets starving, alcoholics, drug addicts. I can see taking [Syrian refugees] in, but keeping them all centralized — it sounds a little barbaric, but we need to centralize them and keep them in one central area.”
Morgan’s explanation isn’t too far removed from what others suggest should be done with Syrian refugees in the wake of deadly attacks in Paris and Beirut last week. Morgan’s fellow state lawmakers, RI Rep. Bobby Nardolillo (R) and Rep. Doreen Costa (R) have both called on Raimondo to refuse refugees.
In Virginia, Roanoke Mayor David Bowers (D) cited President Franklin Roosevelt’s forced detention of mostly U.S. citizens of Japanese descent in internment camps as a reason to prevent his city from taking in refugees. Tennessee state Rep. Glen Casada (R) urged his state to use National Guard members to block Syrian refugees and to “gather up” those already present and force them to leave. And Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for Muslims to carry “a special form of identification that noted their religion,” an idea that was once pervasive during World War II when Jews were issued such identification cards and required to wear a Star of David patched on their clothing.
Only a mere 384 years ago, Roger Williams fled England for the United States to escape religious persecution. Williams founded the colony of Rhode Island based on the “principles of complete religious toleration, separation of church and state, and political democracy,” according to the Library of Congress. The state became a “refuge for people persecuted for their religious beliefs” including Anabaptists, Quakers, and Jews.”