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Senator Morgan Defends Her Stance on Syrian Refugees

Morgan (right) is a freshman senator from Hopkinton.
Morgan (right) is a freshman senator from Hopkinton.
Morgan (right) is a freshman senator from Hopkinton.
Credit CharlestownCitizens.org
Morgan (right) is a freshman senator from Hopkinton.

State Senator Elaine Morgan (R-Hopkinton), who attracted national criticism for an email in which she condemned Muslims, released a statement Friday defending her concerns about admitting Syrian refugees into the US.

"The first point I need to stress is that my statement was taken out of context," Morgan said in a statement released through the Senate minority office. "I was responding to an email from a Rhode Island constituent. He was extremely concerned and expressing his opinion to all Rhode Island senators on a potential Syrian refugee influx. My response was directed to FANATICAL/EXTREMISTS Muslim groups."

In an email sent Tuesday, Morgan called for Syrian refugees, if they are admitted to the US, to be segregated in a camp. She wrote: "If we need to take these people in we should set up refugee camp to keep them segregated from our populous. The Muslim religion and philosophy is to murder, rape and decapitate anyone who is a non Muslim. We definitely need to stop this nonsense I agree. This is a major threat to our nation's security and people."

Morgan has not returned a series of requests for comment from Rhode Island Public Radio. She told WPRI.com that she had a technical issue with a new smart phone and did not intend to send the entire email that sparked a wave of criticism.

In her statement on Friday, Morgan said, "The second thing I would like to clarify relates to detaining Syrian refugees temporarily until fully vetted/investigated. The reference was to create a Federal immigration Center. Not a refugee camp."

Morgan, deputy minority whip in the RI Senate, said her heart goes out to victims of violence in Syria, but that her top concern is the safety of Americans,

"It is extremely clear ISIS wants to infiltrate through the refugee population," Morgan said in her statement. "We clearly need to put a pause on bringing refugees into our country until we have a solid plan with a beginning and an end. We call on the president to slow down and really assess this situation."

Morgan continued, "As an elected official in the state of Rhode Island,  I took an oath to serve and protect our country and constitution. My moral obligation and duty is to protect my community and represent my constituency. I have had overwhelming support from my constituents, both Democrat/Independent and Republican. This should not be a partisan issue. This is an issue of safety. We can’t turn our front yards into front lines. All it takes is one lone wolf to bring vast devastation to a community and country as we saw in Paris on Friday evening."

Some supporters of admitting refugees point to the laborious and time-consuming refugee process in questioning whether ISIS would pursue that approach.

Morgan pointed to the Boston Marathon bombers -- who did not come to the US through the refugee system -- as an example of gaps in US security.

A Japanese-American congressman who spent part of his childhood in an internment camp is among those who have criticized Morgan for her initial remarks.

Morgan was elected by beating Democrat Catherine Cool Rumsey of Exeter in 2014. Rumsey said she has received a wave of encouragement to seek re-election and is leaning toward doing so next year.

Copyright 2015 The Public's Radio

Ian Donnis has been the political reporter for Rhode Island Public Radio since 2009. The Washington Post has called him one of Rhode Island’s best political reporters. Besides reporting, Ian tweets at @IanDon, hosts RIPR’s weekly Political Roundtable, and contributes to the station’s On Politics blog.

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