Marty Walsh Agrees with Charlie Baker on Syrian Refugees, Then Walks It Back

The mayor stood with the governor on Syrian refugees before he didn't.

Photo via AP

Photo via AP

Lost in the uproar over Gov. Charlie Baker’s comments about blocking Syrian refugees from Massachusetts is Mayor Marty Walsh’s initial agreement with them.

During a scrum with reporters outside the Gardner Auditorium in the State House, Baker and Walsh told reporters that they want to see the federal government explain their plan for vetting Syrian immigrants before allowing them into the country.


Janet Wu of WCVB: There’s a number of states, governor, and we’d like the mayor to also jump in, that are saying they’re not going to accept Syrian refugees — and the list is growing by the minute — where do you stand on it, both of you?

Governor Charlie Baker: I think any conversation that involves this has to start with whatever process the federal government is going to put in place, to vet people through that process. And that is certainly something we want to know a lot about. I think at this point in time we would have to be very cautious about accepting folks without knowing a lot more about what the federal government’s plan looks like and how it would actually be implemented and executed on.

Wu: How do you feel about a ban, an overall ban until you know more?

Baker: I would certainly say no until I know a lot more than I know now.

WU: No to the ban or no to not letting them in?

Baker: Uh, no to not letting them in until I know a lot more.

Dan Hausle of WHDH: Has there been any conversation yet?

Baker: No there hasn’t been any conversation yet.

Wu: Where do you stand on it, Mayor?

Walsh: I stand with the governor as well on this. I think, you know, there hasn’t been conversation yet because of the events that happened in Paris and I think this has kind of come to the forefront now of the conversation. I said this yesterday when I spoke at the police headquarters is that we would have to see the vetting process and what is happening with the vetting process. And also, I think, it’s a little early for this conversation. I think there will be opportunity for the governor on the state level and the city to weigh in on this, but I think right now, ultimately, it’s a federal government decision. We don’t have a say in the matter today.

Not long after Walsh and Baker’s comments went viral, Walsh’s office issued a statement that walked back his comments on immigrants and agreement with the governor.

“As a city and as a country it is not our custom to turn our backs on people who are in need and who are innocent. We have yet to receive guidelines from the federal or state government on how they will move forward, however should we be told that Boston is accepting refugees, we will work with our partners at the federal, state and local levels to ensure the safety of Boston residents.”

Walsh, the son of immigrants from Galway, has established a record for himself as a very pro-immigrant politician, so his initial remarks about Syrian refugees are clearly out of line with what he’s said in the past. However, Walsh appears to have a better understanding than Baker (along with several other governors) of how things work, as cities and states have no power when it comes to immigrants and refugees. The Constitution is very clear about who has power in this area, and it’s the federal government.