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Gutierrez: Republican Governors Blocking Syrian Refugees "Despicable And Cowardly"

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Congressman Luis Gutierrez took to the House floor Tuesday to slam Republican governors – including Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner – for saying they won't allow refugees from Syria to settle in their states.

At least two dozen Republican governors have said they will temporarily halt entry of Syrian refugees into their states in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks.

"This is despicable, and cowardly, and precisely the kind of reaction ISIS wanted. ISIS could not have written a better script. The free people of the world are turning their backs on people seeking safety and freedom," Gutierrez said in a speech on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. "When we sent Jews back to Germany, and when we sent Japanese to internment camps, we regretted it, and we will regret this as well."

Gutierrez joined a growing number of Democrfats and immigration groups who have challenged the governors' legal authority to dictate where immigrants can settle in the U.S.

"They cannot actually stop refugees from resettling in their states, and they know it. How sad. Instead, they have instructed state agencies not to assist people fleeing terror. We are a better country than that," Gutierrez said.


The congressman also blasted Republican presidential candidates who have suggested the U.S. accept only Christian refugees from Syria.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has called for a block against Muslim refugees, and said Christian refugees do not pose a risk of terrorism. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has said the U.S. should focus on Christians fleeing Syria.

"It is not the time to lose sight of ourselves, and say America is too weak, America cannot handle 20,000 or 200,000 refugees fleeing for their lives. It is not the time for America to consider raising the white flag and say to those waving the black flag, 'Yes, ISIS, you are right. We dislike and fear Muslims, and we don't care if you perish or not,'" Gutierrez said. "A lot of us love this country too much to see it abandon core principles and values, because religious extremists commit acts of terror designed precisely to terrorize us."

Gutierrez said lawmakers and other political leaders should rise above xenophobia and petty politics, and maintain the nation's commitment to serving as a safe haven for migrants fleeing oppression and violence.

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