Several governors refuse to relocate Syrian refugees after Paris attacks

Several governors refuse to relocate Syrian refugees after Paris attacks

Published November 16,

Several governors say that they will not resettle any refugees from Syria in their states, amid reports that at least one of the Paris attackers slipped through Europe’s immigration system and concerns about “gaping holes” impacting America’s screening process.

On Monday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that he sent a letter to President Obama saying that Texas will not take any Syrian refugees in light of the attacks.

“Neither you nor any federal official can guarantee that Syrian refugees will not be part of any terroristic activity,” Abbott wrote. “As such, opening our door to them irresponsibly exposes our fellow Americans to unacceptable peril.”

He joined a growing list of governors who have said they will not resettle Syrian refugees, including Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson in opposing the move, who said Monday in a tweet, “As Governor I will oppose Syrian refugees being located to Arkansas.”

In Michigan, which has a large Arab-American population, Gov. Rick Snyder said Sunday he was putting his prior calls for the state to accept more refugees on hold until the Department of Homeland Security reviewed its screening procedures.

“Michigan is a welcoming state and we are proud of our rich history of immigration,” Snyder said in a statement. “But our first priority is protecting the safety of our residents.”

The governor later added, “It’s also important to remember that these attacks are the efforts of extremists and do not reflect the peaceful ways of people of Middle Eastern descent here and around the world.”

The Detroit Free Press reported that between 1,800 and 2,000 refugees had been resettled in Michigan over the past year and that approximately 200 of those were from Syria.

In a statement, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said he reached his decision “[a]fter full consideration of this weekend’s attacks of terror on innocent citizens in Paris … I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way.”

State officials said that no Syrian refugees have been relocated in Alabama to date, though some have been processed by neighboring states. According to the statement, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is working diligently with federal agencies to monitor any possible threats. To date there has been no credible intelligence of terror threats in Alabama.

On Saturday, Louisiana governor and Republican presidential candidate Bobby Jindal raised concerns about Syrian refugees who have entered the U.S. in recent months, particularly those in his home state.

“Louisiana has been kept in the dark about those seeking refuge in the state,” Jindal wrote in a letter to Obama. “It is irresponsible and severely disconcerting to place individuals, who may have ties to ISIS, in a state without the state’s knowledge or involvement. … As governor of Louisiana, I demand information.”

On Sunday, the State Department told New Orleans’ WWL-TV that 14 Syrians had been resettled in Louisiana.

Earlier Sunday, White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told “Fox News Sunday” that President Obama still plans to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country within the next year and expressed confidence in the U.S. screening process.

“We had very robust vetting procedures for those refugees,” Rhodes said.

However, Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, disagreed with Rhodes’ assessment.

“I disagree,” he said. “I’ve been briefed by the FBI and Homeland Security. They tell me that this cannot be done.”

“We don’t have the databases,” he said.

McCaul went on to cite several problems with the administration’s plan, including not having a comprehensive list of the estimated 5,000 or more foreign fighters around the world.

“Paris changes everything,” McCaul said. “There are a lot of holes — gaping holes.”

In September, McCaul’s committee released a 66-page, bipartisan report — titled “Combating Terrorist and Foreign Fighter Travel” — that raised dozens of major concerns including “gaping security weaknesses” in overseas, Syrian-refugee programs, especially in Europe.

And earlier this year, FBI Director James Comey acknowledged intelligence “gaps” in trying to screen potential refugees.

McCaul said Sunday that one or perhaps two of the terrorists in the coordinated terror attack in and around Paris on Friday night appear to have come from Syria — as part of the flood of Syrian refugees into Europe as a result of Syria’s years-long civil war.

The Islamic State terror group, which has flourished in war-torn Syria, has claimed responsibility for the attacks, in which at least 129 people were killed and dozens more injured.

GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson told “Fox News Sunday” that the United States is making a “huge mistake” in accepting the refugees and instead called for helping them to resettle in safer parts of their own region.

“But to bring them here under these circumstances is a suspension of intellect,” said Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon.

Fellow GOP challenger Sen. Marco Rubio suggested that even the concept of finding a foreign fighter amid Syrian refugees is impossible.

“The problem is not the background checks,” the Florida lawmaker said on ABC’s “This Week.” “There is no background check system in the world that allows us to find that out because who do you call in Syria to background check them?”

The administration reportedly also had planned before the Paris attacks to increase the number of Syrian refugees potentially coming into the United States by opening or re-opening screening centers in Iraq and Lebanon.

The U.S. now has nine such centers around the world, which are run by the State Department and staffed by Homeland Security Department workers.

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