National Security

Growing number of states refuse refugees

Fifteen Republican governors and one Democrat have announced plans to block Syrian refugees from resettling in their states in the wake of last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley issued statements Sunday saying that they wanted to prioritize the safety of the residents in their states.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a GOP presidential candidate; Arkansas Gov. Gov. Asa Hutchinson; Indiana Gov. Mike Pence; Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant; Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner; Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker; Florida Gov. Rick Scott; North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory; Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican presidential candidate; Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; and Maine Gov. Paul LePage joined them on Monday.

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, who is challenging Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) for her Senate seat, became the first Democratic governor to call for halting the acceptance of refugees until the vetting process is reviewed. 

“Michigan is a welcoming state and we are proud of our rich history of immigration,” Snyder said, according to the Detroit Free Press. “But our first priority is protecting the safety of our residents.”

The governor had previously said he was working with the Obama administration on plans to resettle Syrian refugees, with at least 200 already relocated by one agency, according to the newspaper.

Snyder said his state wouldn’t allow for any Syrian refugees until the Department of Homeland Security reviewed its procedures for accepting migrants, according to the Free Press.

Alabama currently has a single refugee processing center, in Mobile, approved by the State Department, but it hasn’t relocated any Syrian refugees, according to Bentley’s office.

“The acts of terror committed over the weekend are a tragic reminder to the world that evil exists and takes the form of terrorists who seek to destroy the basic freedoms we will always fight to preserve,” Bentley said in his statement.

“I will not place Alabamians at even the slightest, possible risk of an attack on our people,” he added.

“The threat posed to Texas by ISIS is very real,” Abbott wrote in a letter Monday urging President Obama to halt his plans, pointing to a foiled ISIS-inspired plot in Garland, Texas, in May, among other incidents.

“A Syrian ‘refugee’ appears to have been part of the Paris terror attack. American humanitarian compassion could be exploited to expose Americans to similar deadly danger,” Abbott wrote.

“All departments, budget units, agencies, offices, entities, and officers of the executive branch of the State of Louisiana are authorized and directed to utilize all lawful means to prevent the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the State of Louisiana while this Order is in effect,” Jindal wrote in an executive order issued Monday.

“The Louisiana State Police, upon receiving information of a Syrian refugee already relocated within the State of Louisiana, are authorized and directed to utilize all lawful means to monitor and avert threats within the State of Louisiana,” he added.

“As Governor I will oppose Syrian refugees being relocated to Arkansas,” Hutchinson tweeted.

“Indiana has a long tradition of opening our arms and homes to refugees from around the world but, as governor, my first responsibility is to ensure the safety and security of all Hoosiers,” Pence wrote in a statement. “Unless and until the state of Indiana receives assurances that proper security measures are in place, this policy will remain in full force and effect.”

“I will do everything humanly possible to stop any plans from the Obama administration to put Syrian refugees in Mississippi,” Bryant said in a statement, according to MS News Now. “The policy of bringing these individuals into the country is not only misguided, it is extremely dangerous. I’ll be notifying President Obama of my decision today to resist this potential action.”

Rauner said that while the U.S. has a history of being a safe haven for refugees, Illinois would temporarily suspend accepting new Syrian refugees based on the “all-too-real security threats facing America.”

During an event at the Massachusetts state house on Monday, Baker said that he wanted more information from the federal government, but “I would say no as of right now” on accepting new Syrian refugees, according to the Boston Globe.

Scott, who also said Florida wouldn’t support the relocation of Syrian refugees, wrote a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday about federal funding for the refugees.
Scott wrote that “it is our understanding that the state does not have the authority to prevent the federal government from funding the relocation of these Syrian refugees to Florida even without state support.” 
“Therefore, we are asking the United States Congress to take immediate and aggressive action to prevent President Obama and his administration from using any federal tax dollars to fund the relocation of up to 425 Syrian refugees” to Florida, Scott wrote. 
Ducey also called for a halt in refugee resettlement in Arizona, and said in a statement that Congress and Obama should amend federal law “to provide states greater oversight and authority in the administration of the placement of refugees.”
McCrory said during a press conference that he wanted “greater verification” from the federal government that all those refugees who would be resettling in North Carolina didn’t pose any safety risk to residents.  
Kasich, who has called for vetting the Syrian refugees, cast doubt on Monday that such a proposal was possible, saying on Fox Business Network, “There is no way that we can put any of our people at risk by bringing [refugees] in at this point.” 
LePage said in a radio address released Monday that Obama’s refugee plan was “irresponsible” following the attacks in Paris, noting the “gaping holes” in tracking migrants.
“There may be those who will try to take advantage of the generosity of our country and the ability to move freely within our borders through this federal resettlement program, and we must ensure we are doing all we can to safeguard the security of Americans,” Walker said in a statement calling for a full review of the program.
Hassan, a Democrat, also believes the program should be halted “until intelligence and defense officials can assure that the process for vetting all refugees, including those from Syria, is as strong as possible to ensure the safety of the American people,” according to a statement from a spokesperson.
Meanwhile, several Democratic governors said they would continue accepting Syrian refugees, including Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin.
A top aide to Obama said Sunday that the Obama administration still plans to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S. over the next year despite the Paris attacks.

“We had very robust vetting procedures for those refugees,” White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said on Fox News.

“There are women and children, orphans of this war, and I think we need to do our part along with our allies to provide them a safe haven,” Rhodes added.

The plan to allow the Syrian refugees into the U.S. has faced fresh criticism after the attack that left 129 dead and hundreds more injured. At least one suspect reportedly slipped into France among asylum seekers.

Obama maintained during remarks earlier Monday at the G-20 meeting in Turkey that the U.S. would continue to accept the refugees, including Syrians, only after “rigorous” security screenings.

“Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values,” he said.

It remains unclear whether individual states can choose whether or not to participate in the refugee resettlement program, given its federal nature.

The State Department, which is responsible for the resettlement, said on Monday that it was reviewing whether or not states had the power to pull out. 

“As to the legal aspects, we’re looking at all that stuff,” department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters during a daily briefing. “I just don’t have a clear and definitive answer for you at this point.”

The Obama administration takes states’ concerns “seriously,” he added.

“The way we’re looking at this right now is we believe it’s incumbent on us to sit with them, consult with them, explain to them the process — the stringent review — that goes into accepting these refugees.”

—This report was updated at 4:15 p.m.

—Julian Hattem contributed

Tags ISIS Kelly Ayotte Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan Syrian refugees

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