More States Say No To Syrian Refugees After Paris Attacks
Several U.S. governors are threatening to halt efforts to allow Syrian refugees into their states in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris, and at least eight have signaled opposition to accepting refugees.
In Oklahoma, state representatives have urged Gov. Mary Fallin to join a handful of other states in refusing to accept Syrian refugees. And just before 3:30 p.m., Fallin issued a press release doing just that.
“The Obama administration needs to assure the public that the background checks they are doing are rigorous, and that American lives will not be endangered in the process,” said Fallin.
“Until then, I call on the Obama administration to suspend any Syrian refugees into the United States. During these uncertain times, the Obama administration needs to make sure those entering the United States are not terrorists.”
The governors are responding to heightened concerns that terrorists might use the refugees as cover to sneak across borders. One of the attackers in Paris had a Syrian passport, and the Paris prosecutors' office says fingerprints from the attacker match those of someone who passed through Greece in October.
Seven of the eight terrorist suspects from the attack, however, were European and only one is thought to be from Syria.
Some Republican presidential candidates have also called for the United States to halt its Syrian refugee policy. Republican presidential candidateJeb Bush told "CBS This Morning" on Mondaythat the U.S. should focus on creating safe havens for Syrian refugees in the region rather than bringing them to the U.S., and that there is a "special important need" to help Syrian Christians.
"There should be really thorough screening [of refugees coming to the U.S.] and we should focus on creating safe havens for refugees in Syria rather than bringing them all the way across to the United States," Bush said. "But I do think there is a special important need to make sure that Christians from Syria are being protected because they are being slaughtered in the country and but for us who? Who would take care of the number of Christians that right now are completely displaced?"
On Monday, President Barack Obama sharply criticized Republicans for calling for a religious test for Syrian refugees.
"When I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which person is fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefitted from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that's shameful," the president said. "That's not American, that's not who we are."
Millions of Syrians have fled to neighboring Middle Eastern countries and Europe, and the Obama's administration has pledged to accept about 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next 12 months. The U.S. State Department said the refugees would be spread across the country. Republican presidential candidates have criticized the plan.
Here's a look at where some states stand:
Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday ordered Texas' refugee resettlement program not to accept any more Syrians in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks. In a letter to Obama, the Republican also urged scrapping federal plans to accept more Syrian refugees into the country as a whole. He said the federal government can't perform "proper security checks" on Syrians.
Gov. Bobby Jindal - a GOP presidential contender - announced Monday that he would work to stop the relocation of Syrian refugees to Louisiana.
I just signed an Executive Order instructing state agencies to take all available steps to stop the relocation of Syrian refugees to LA.— Gov. Bobby Jindal (@BobbyJindal) November 16, 2015
Earlier, Jindal said he wanted more information from the White House "in hopes that the night of horror in Paris is not duplicated here." Jindal sent a letter to the White House on Saturday, demanding to know how many Syrian refugees have been resettled in his state.
Gov. Rick Snyder had bucked many fellow Republican leaders by welcoming refugees to Michigan, which has a large Arab-American population. But he said Sunday that the state is postponing efforts to accept refugees until federal officials fully review security procedures and clearances. Snyder said that while he is proud of the state's history of immigration, its "first priority is protecting the safety of our residents."
Fellow Republican Gov. Robert Bentley announced Sunday that he would refuse Syrian refugees relocating to the state, saying: "I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm's way." Bentley's news release said the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency was diligently working with federal officials to monitor any possible threats. There has been no credible intelligence of terror threats in Alabama so far, according to the governor's office.
Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson tweeted a statement Monday, saying he opposes Syrian refugees being relocated to Arkansas.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker says he's opposed to allowing more Syrian refugees into Massachusetts in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris. The Republican said Monday the safety and security of the people of Massachusetts are his first priority and he would have to know a lot more about the federal government's refugee vetting process before allowing them into the state. Democratic Boston Mayor Marty Walsh echoed Baker, saying he also wants to know more about how the federal government screens refugees.
Gov. Tom Wolf says his administration will continue to work with the federal government to properly screen and resettle Syrian refugees in Pennsylvania. Wolf, a Democrat, said Monday that the federal government believes it can handle an additional 10,000 refugees that the White House said in September that it would accept from Syria. Wolf says Pennsylvania has a rich, multi-century tradition of accepting immigrants and that that should continue.
Gov. Mike Pence says he is telling all state agencies to suspend the resettlement of additional Syrian refugees in Indiana following the deadly attacks in Paris. Pence issued a statement Monday saying he was putting all resettlements on hold until assurances from the federal government that proper security measures have been met. He says Indiana has a long tradition of opening its arms and homes to refugees, but as governor it's his first responsibility to ensure the safety and security of Indiana residents.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant says he will "do everything humanly possible" to stop the federal government from putting any Syrian refugees in the state. Bryant says bringing them to the U.S. is "misguided" and "extremely dangerous."
Ohio Governor John Kasich "doesn't believe the U.S. should accept additional Syrian refugees because security and safety issues cannot be adequately addressed," according to Jim Lynch, the governor's communications director. "The governor is writing to the President to ask him to stop, and to ask him to stop resettling them in Ohio," Lynch said in a statement. "We are also looking at what additional steps Ohio can take to stop resettlement of these refugees."
Governor Paul R. LePage called President Obama's decision to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S. within the next year "irresponsible."
"Unfortunately, we do not know for certain if Maine has any Syrian refugees at this time," LaPage said in a radio address. "While the President has expressed confidence in the U.S. screening process, some have pointed out the gaping holes in our immigration policy."
He said Maine would "work with law enforcement and other agencies to assist the federal government on immigration matters."
Governor Pat McCrory said his state will refuse taking in Syrian refugees after the terrorist attacks in Paris.
At a press conference on Monday, he said the U.S. needs to "learn exactly who these people are, what their backgrounds are."
While he said he empathizes with the refugees, he said, "What worries me is some of these people could be ISIS."
Governor Rick Scott wrote in a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that his state would not accept any requests to relocate Syrian refugees.
Beyond that, he said Congress should pass legislation that would block funding for the relocation of refugees to Florida.
"As the federal elected body that exercises oversight and authorizing federal spending, please take any action available through the powers of the United States Congress to prevent federal allocations toward the relocation of Syrian refugees without extensive examination into how this would affect our homeland security," Scott wrote in the letter.
Governor Bruce Rauner said in a statement that the state will "temporarily suspend" its program to accept any new Syrian refugees until the Department of Homeland Security conducts a full review of the security process.