Refugee issues on tap for Moulton panel

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BOSTON – Long-time refugee and immigration advocate Seth Moulton, the sixth district Democratic congressman from Salem, will open a discussion on the topic Thursday with a panel of experts dealing with the region’s response to Mideast refugee crisis.

A Marine Corps combat veteran who served in Iraq, Moulton has long supported refugees from the region, facing off with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker in November over whether to block additional Syrian refugees from coming to the state until screening procedures could be tightened. Baker, a Republican, raised security concerns following the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, where one of the perpetrators appeared to be a Syrian refugee.

In mid-November, Moulton voted against a bill that would have suspended U.S. entry for Syrian and Iraqi refugees until national security agencies could “ensure” none would represent a threat. The measure passed the House of Representatives by a strong majority, but was blocked in the Senate.

Moulton displayed his support for Mideast refugees by bringing Ahmad Alkhalaf, a 9-year-old Syrian refugee who lost both arms in a bombing of his camp in Syria, as his guest at President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union speech. Alkhalaf is receiving medical treatment in Boston.

As of the end of September, 70 Syrian refugees had been resettled in Massachusetts, along with 15 Syrians who had been granted asylum and live in the state, up from four in both categories a year earlier, according to figures from the Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants. In Maine, reports indicate there are more than 4,000 African refugees and asylees in Lewiston alone.

Maine’s second-largest city will be represented on the panel at Boston’s Edward M. Kennedy Institute by Phil Nadeau, its deputy city administrator. Also on the panel will be Eva Millona from the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition and Jessica M. Vaughan from the Center for Immigration Studies. The discussion, which begins at 6 p.m., will be moderated by Maria Sacchetti, a Boston Globe reporter.

After the panel, audience members will cast votes on a mock refugee bill.