A New Hampshire bill that has been labeled anti-immigrant by some in the state is stirring up controversy because it would impose a year-long ban on the settlement of political refugees who have been cleared by the federal government.
The measure, which passed the state House in March and is now before the state Senate, would allow local communities to reject refugees for resettlement even though they may already have family or sponsors living in New Hampshire, according to the Union Leader
Concern over possible passage of the measure has led to the formation of a bipartisan group called Granite Staters for Strong Communities, which is made up of business owners, citizens, and religious leaders who fear New Hampshire could be lumped into the same category as other states that recently passed strong anti-immigration measures in the face of federal opposition.
“New Hampshire should be above that,” said attorney George Bruno, a group member who testified at a hearing before a Senate committee last week. “New Hampshire has to stand on the side of freedom and liberty.”
Bruno reminded the committee that political refugees are fleeing dangerous situations and must first be approved by the federal government for resettlement before being moved into local communities where their family members may already live.
Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas testified that contrary to some charges made by opponents of the bill, most local communities are not opposed to the resettlement program and are not seeking a permanent ban. He said community leaders simply want “a moratorium” on refugee placements so better support programs can be developed to help them.
“We’re not looking for a freeze on resettlement,” Gatsas said. “We just want to allow the people here to be successful in our society.”
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