More than half of US governors oppose refugee resettlement

Anna Papazian

More than half of the nation’s governors have moved to at least temporarily block Syrian refugees from resettling in their states, according to a tally compiled by The Hill.

The 28 governors — 27 Republicans and one Democrat — have indicated they want to prioritize the safety of residents in their states amid heightened fears of international terrorism.

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Many of them have called on the federal government to review its screening process as President Obama moves forward with plans to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S. over the next year.

The Obama administration has suggested the governors don't have the authority to turn away the refugees, and some Republicans have acknowledged that could be an issue. 

But the mounting pressure from the governors could spur action in Congress to halt the refugee program.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Tuesday that the House is likely to vote this week on legislation that would temporarily halt the resettlement plan to ensure that the vetting process is sufficiently thorough.

The debate over refugees erupted after last week's deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, where one attacker may have slipped into Europe with a group of Syrian refugees.

“My heart says that we should let these people in,” Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said Tuesday during an interview on CNN's “New Day.”

“But my head says that I have to protect the people of the state of Alabama and keep them secure.”

Bentley and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) on Sunday became the first to formally announce their opposition to refugees being resettled in their states.

Others joined Monday, including several governors running for the White House: Ohio Gov. John Kasich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan is the only Democrat to join group, and has called for pausing refugee resettlement until the vetting process is reviewed. Hassan is running against Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) for the Senate in a race that will help decide control of the upper chamber.

Democratic governors of several states including Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Delaware have signaled that they would still welcome the refugees. Others, such as Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, have indicated the same, though they have focused on safety precautions.

In Kentucky, outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear (D) signaled that the state would admit those who have been screened. But Gov.-elect Matt Bevin (R) said in a statement that he backed a "vigilant" approach to blocking refugees until a more thorough risk assessment. 

Governors are also demanding greater coordination on resettlement, as several have indicated they are open to supporting refugees being sent to their states after a stronger vetting process is established.

“While screening, acceptance and placement is legally under the authority of the federal government, they have said in the past they would be open to cooperating with receiving states,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said in a statement.

“Right now there's almost no coordination or communication between the state and federal officials on this issue,” North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said Tuesday morning on Fox News.

Efforts on the part of the Obama administration to quell concerns may not be enough in some states. In Louisiana, Jindal issued an executive order for government agencies to use "all lawful means" to keep Syrian refugees out and told state police to "monitor and avert threats" posed by those already in the state.

“It's fair for the governors to ask the question – what type of background check can you do when individuals [are] coming from a country that's torn apart?” McCrory asked Tuesday on CNN. “What types of background checks are you actually going through?”

Obama has sharply criticized the calls to keep out the refugees, saying the country should help people who are fleeing the carnage of Syria’s civil war.  

“Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values,” Obama said Monday in Turkey. He also said the refugees would be allowed into the country only after "rigorous" vetting.  

Here is the full list of governors who want to prevent the resettlement of refugees in their states:

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson

Florida Gov. Rick Scott

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal

Maine Gov. Paul LePage

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory

Ohio Gov. John Kasich

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

- This story was updated at 1:13 p.m.