The Governor emphasized he did not think Colorado had any legal right to refuse the refugees who would be admitted by the federal government.
“If I turn refugees away, that’s breaking the (federal) law,” Hickenlooper said. “We operate by rule of law,” he added just moments later.
The conversation between Governor and radio host featured more of the verbal give-and-take that’s reminiscent of a campaign debate, with the two frequently interrupting each other with clarifications and new questions.
Rosen said he had received “at least” 50 emails asking the radio host to question the governor on the issue.
Complete Colorado has transcribed the beginning of the conversation:
Rosen: I’m not going to read 50 emails (that listeners have sent in), but I’ll read this one. And this was one of the more civil ones. A number of the ones I got were kind of angry, and understandably so.
(Begins reading listener email): It’s great to have a big heart and want to open our arms to the people fleeing their country because of the situation where their lives are at stake. But we need to keep our brains engaged as well as our hearts. In this unstable and threatening world we now live in, we need to be smart about protecting the citizens of the U.S., too. ISIS is growing, and now in more countries their number one goal: to attack the U.S. 9-11 is still fresh in our memories. There’s no way to screen out potential terrorists in the wave of refugees. To the rest of the world, we are now labeled as a country of fools. With our shortsighted and reticent foreign policy, let us not have the ultimate label of fools for admitting people who want to kill our people and to destabilize our security and liberty. Do not agree to admit Syrian refugees in the U.S., especially, Colorado. (End of reading email).
This is Judy’s email, and she said she sent a message of this to Gov. Hickenlooper on his website. So, let me just ask you to start by clarifying your position and then we’ll go from there.
Hickenlooper: So, let’s first distinguish – so, we were asked whether we would receive refugees into Colorado that have been brought in by the U.S. government.
Rosen: Up to 10,000 by 2017 according to President Obama.
Hickenlooper: Yeah. So the issue there is, is, do we have any legal right not to? And we don’t.
In other words this country – you know, the story – I started tell this to (name unintelligible), he didn’t think it was any way applicable. But, you know, we were trying to, to analyze security for the (2008) Democratic Convention. And I talked to Jim Davis, who was the head of the, the Special Agent in charge of the FBI at that time. He was the first person to, to interrogate Saddam Hussein when Baghdad fell. He’s a pretty tough character. And in that conversation, he talked about terrorism and why people hate the United States.
And one of the things he said is, a basic freedom of those in United States and its US citizens, but it’s also people that are here, uh, with a legal right to be here – that they, that our freedom of mobility – we’re one of the, they’re not – so many of these other countries that foment terrorism and want to hurt us, it, it’s because of these freedoms. And we should certainly – but, if we’re gonna give up of a basic freedom like that, we should certainly think long and hard. And I’m not saying that we shouldn’t look at and reevaluate – you look at it, there are tens of thousands of refugees already in Colorado from various places, and many times that number already in the United States.
We’ve got a much deeper problem than whether — because there was a bombing in, in France — suddenly we’re gonna dramatically change all our policies.
We’ve gotta be looking at how we evaluate the risk anyway. And at much deeper level. And what are the, I mean – the first thing we said was, the first thing we said was, ‘Our heart goes out to all the victims in Paris.’ But the second, the second thing we said was, ‘The personal security of the, of the people of Colorado was always going to be our first concern.’”
Rosen: Well, if that’s the first concern, then that would trump whatever virtues are associated with a humanitarian outreach (unintelligible).
Hickenlooper: No. Because I took an oath to obey the laws of the United States of America.
The Governor’s appearance on KOA came one day after his administration announced their decision on the refugee issue, and at a time when at least 30 other governors across the nation have sought to refuse accepting the refugees.
(Audio with the Governor begins at time marker 36:26.)