AUGUSTA — A leading Maine Democrat has said a statement made by Republican Gov. Paul LePage regarding a ban on Syrian refugees to Maine and the U.S. in the wake of the Paris terror attacks is “morally repugnant.”

Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, the state Senate minority leader, said LePage was taking advantage of a tragedy to advance an “anti-immigrant” stance.

“Gov. LePage’s comments are morally repugnant,” Alfond said in a prepared statement issued Monday. “Our allies in France and the world are still reeling from the terrorist attacks on Paris and the governor is already using those attacks to promote his shallow, anti-immigrant agenda.” 

LePage joined about two dozen Republican governors around the country Monday in condemning President Barack Obama’s goal of accepting 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year. LePage was traveling to Las Vegas on Tuesday to participate in the Republican Governors Association annual conference on Wednesday and Thursday.

“To bring Syrian refugees into our country without knowing who they are is to invite an attack on American soil, just like the one we saw in Paris last week and in New York City on 9/11,” LePage said in a prepared statement. “That is why I adamantly oppose any attempt by the federal government to place Syrian refugees in Maine, and will take every lawful measure in my power to prevent it from happening.”

Alfond said LePage was confusing “terrorists with their victims” to score political points on anti-immigrant sentiment.

“This kind of brazen opportunism is indefensible,” Alfond said. “Families in Syria face not only a brutal civil war, but the daily threat of attacks from the very same terrorists that targeted Paris. To say those families are not welcome in Maine is unconscionable.”

Peter Steele, LePage’s communications director, said Alfond was just “blindly” following Obama’s lead.

“As a liberal Democrat, he blindly supports President Obama’s weak foreign policy, open-border philosophy and radical refugee resettlement program that endangers American lives and could quite possibly threaten the lives of Mainers,” Steele said in an emailed message.

When asked why LePage did not call on the federal government to stop admitting refugees from Somalia following an April terrorist attack at a Kenyan university by the Somalia-based terrorist group Al-Shabaab, Steele said it was because Kenya was not a NATO ally.

“Sadly, terrorist attacks occur in many nations around the globe,” Steele wrote. “Gov. LePage condemns them all. But the attack in Paris specifically targeted a longtime ally of the U.S. An attack on one NATO ally is considered an attack on them all.”

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