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Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto
After the terrorist bombing and shootings that unfolded in Paris on Friday, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto did not back away from his long-time message of welcoming refugees into the Steel City, especially those from Syria.
“We want to provide [refugees] an opportunity to give their families all the opportunities they deserve here in Pittsburgh,” said Peduto at a press conference.
Peduto's position is in stark contrast to that of several politicians across the country today
who are refusing to take the refugees into their states. Among them are Louisiana Governor and Republican presidential candidate Bobby Jindal
, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder
, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott
Peduto said more than 4.5 million Syrians have fled their homes due to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East and that this is the largest migration crisis since World War II. He vowed to show that Pittsburgh is welcoming to those who need a home and that they may "stay in Pittsburgh or return to home” after the conflict subsides.
“Do we stand by the words on the Statue of Liberty?” said Peduto referring to the Emma Lazarus poem which says America shall welcome all immigrants, “or do we run from that reaction?”
Peduto said that Pittsburgh has a history of a Syrian community (including a Little Syria in the Hill District in the late-1800s) and said that many Syrian immigrants were in the city before his family immigrated here from Italy. He also spoke of the heritage of Muslim residents in Western Pennsylvania and how they have a place in the city too.
“They are a part of our community and have been since the civil war,” said Peduto of the city’s Muslim residents.
The mayor said that the city has already brought in some Syrian refugees over the years and currently has at least two families from the war-torn country residing in the area. He also stated that the process for which refugees to reach Pittsburgh is more complicated than accepting any immigrant and that it could take one and half to two years to safely bring in refugees. “The standards are higher than someone who is just looking for a VISA,” he said.
While Peduto stood by his stance on refugees, he did acknowledge that the city has increased some security measures in the wake of the Paris attacks. He said that the Steelers' football game at Heinz Field this Sunday had around two times as many security personnel as usual.