A growing number of states have said they would not accept Syrian refugees because of security worries in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris.
So far, the governors of seventeen states have announced they would refuse to allow Syrian refugees to settle in their states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin.
Michigan has a large Muslim population which wields political power, and about 200 Syrian refugees have settled in the state, but Governor Rick Snyder said he was suspending the acceptance of new Syrian arrivals until the Department of Homeland Security “completes a full review of security clearances and procedures.”
Alabama has not yet accepted any Syrian refugees, but its governor has said that he “will not place Alabamians at even the slightest possible risk of an attack on our people.”
The New York Times reports that the governors of other states have issued similar statements, but the State Department said that it was not clear whether states can refuse to accept refugees who were deemed eligible to enter the United States.
President Barack Obama, in a press conference in Turkey, said the United States should “step up and do its part” to help those fleeing the civil war.
“Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values,” he said. “Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both.”
In a direct reference to Senators Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) – although he did not mention either by name – Obama said that it was especially disappointing to see certain politicians now leading the campaign against accepting Syrian refugees – although their own families were welcomed in the United States when they fled political oppression and war (Rubio’s family and Cruz’s father escaped Castro’s cube).
About four millions Syrians have fled their country — the majority of them now live in tent camps in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon, but a few hundreds of thousands made it to Europe.
The United States has committed to take about 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next twelve months.
The State Department spokesman said that the department has not yet made the final determination on the legality of the states’ refusal to accept Syrian refugees, but that an initial assessment by the department’s legal staff is that the states cannot block refugees who come into the United States through the resettlement program and pass the various vetting thresholds federal immigration authorities apply, but that states’ bureaucracies can certainly make it more difficult for the refugees and the NGOs – including religious organizations — working to help them settle down.