Politics & Government

Refugee advocates blast Pat McCrory – and Roy Cooper

Republican Gov. Pat McCrory as well as his possible Democratic challenger came under fire Tuesday from groups opposed to his request to not allow Syrian refugees into North Carolina.

Last week McCrory joined over half the nation’s governors in opposing the resettlement of Syrian refugees in their states, calling it a security issue.

At a news conference in Charlotte, representatives from a coalition of groups denounced McCrory’s decision. Attorney Mujtaba Mohammed called it “simply un-American.”

Charlotte City Council member John Autry, a Democrat, also criticized the governor.

“Is a leader someone who has to resort to stoking fear for political gain?” he said. “I don’t think so.”

In a statement, McCrory said in light of the Paris attacks, his primary duty “is to protect the citizens of North Carolina.”

“I prudently joined 26 of my fellow governors in signing a letter calling on President Barack Obama to cease the resettlement of additional Syrian refugees until the federal government thoroughly reviews and addresses the security gaps acknowledged by FBI Director James Comey,” the governor said.

One speaker also singled out Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democratic candidate for governor. Last week Cooper joined McCrory and other Republican leaders who want refugee resettlement at least slowed following the Paris attacks.

In a statement, Cooper said he supports asking the federal government for a pause in refugee entries to ensure the screening process is effective “so our humanitarian efforts are not hijacked.”

Ray McKinnon, president of the Young Democrats, said while he expects such sentiment from McCrory, “I don’t expect it from Roy Cooper.”

“To hear him giving into the fear and the hysteria took me to a place I could not come back from,” McKinnon told the crowd of nearly 100.

Asked later if Cooper’s comments could hurt him in a primary against Durham Democrat Ken Spaulding, McKinnon said, “I think it definitely puts a damper on folks’ excitement.”

“Honestly, it ticks me off more than what the governor did.”

Last week a General Assembly oversight committee endorsed McCrory’s request. Some Democrats on the committee gave it at least tacit support.

Democratic state Rep. Kelly Alexander Jr. joined Autry at the news conference. They were the only two elected officials, though statements of support were read from Sen. Jeff Jackson, Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter and Mayor-elect Jennifer Roberts.

Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059, @jimmorrill