Conservatives confront Blumenthal on Syrian refugees

Lori Hopkins-Cavanagh, standing, addresses U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal about Syrian refugees at the end of his press conference Monday. Hopkins-Cavanaugh was accompanied by Wendy Hartling, seated, whose daughter was stabbed to death, allegedly by a Haitian in the country illegally.

Mark Pazniokas / CtMirror.org

Lori Hopkins-Cavanagh, standing, addresses U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal about Syrian refugees at the end of his press conference Monday. Hopkins-Cavanaugh was accompanied by Wendy Hartling, seated, whose daughter was stabbed to death, allegedly by a Haitian in the country illegally.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal came to Hartford to talk about labeling standards for genetically modified fish, but he left Monday with a petition opposing the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Connecticut.

Blumenthal, a Democrat easing into a 2016 re-election campaign, was confronted by immigration opponents during a press conference he called in Hartford on genetically modified salmon.

It was an ambush, albeit a polite one. Lori Hopkins-Cavanagh, a radio host and Republican congressional nominee in 2014, waited until Blumenthal finished taking questions on fish.

Then she stood.

“There are policies you support, sir, that are jeopardizing the safety of U.S. citizens in the United States,” said Hopkins-Cavanagh, the founder of the American Liberty Center. “Mrs. Hartling would like to speak to you about that.”

She was accompanied by Wendy Hartling, whose 26-year-old daughter, Casey Chadwick, was stabbed to death in Norwich. Her daughter’s accused killer, Jean Jacques, is a Haitian in the country illegally.

“I’d be happy to talk to her. I’ve got some time this morning,” Blumenthal said.

“Yeah, we appreciate that,” Hopkins-Cavanagh said. “And your office was kind enough to meet with her, but nothing has been done. And meanwhile, no laws have been changed.”

Chadwick’s death raises questions about immigration that seemed distant to those raised about Syrian refugees: namely, the reliability of the extensive vetting the U.S. says the refugees undergo before arriving in the U.S.

Jacques was in the country illegally and was facing deportation after serving time in a Connecticut prison. But Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had trouble deporting him because Haiti challenged whether he was a Haitian citizen.

“I’d be glad to share with you what we’re trying to do about this problem,” Blumenthal said. “And you’re absolutely right that the ICE procedure in this instance was very lacking, and I’d be happy to talk to you about it.”

Hopkins-Cavanagh pivoted to Syrian refugees.

“How are they going to be able to take care of the Syrian refugees and the immigration issues in the U.S.?” she asked.

Blumenthal replied, “I’d be glad to talk to you about it. Thank you for coming today.”

Hopkins-Cavanagh continued to challenge Blumenthal, and the senator continued to respond evenly.

‘Our country is not doing anything to stop the Islamic radical jihad movement that is a global movement, and we want our borders secured, sir,” she said. “We would like you to hold a press conference on those subjects. It is very important to us.”

Blumenthal gently pushed back at the notion that Syrian refugees were not being vetted only when a reporter asked if the Jacques case raised valid questions about the resettlement of refugees.

The senator noted that refugees undergo a multi-year examination before being accepted for resettlement in the U.S.

Hopkins-Cavanagh said she had no faith in that vetting. Her group is calling for the U.S. to close its borders, at least temporarily.

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