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Republican Governors Say They Will Reject Syrian Refugees

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 16/11/2015 Elise Foley
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WASHINGTON -- Seven Republican governors said Sunday and Monday that they will block Syrian refugees from resettling in their states, based on concerns about terrorism after attacks in Paris last week.

The states are Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan and Texas.

All of the governors cited the terrorist attacks in Paris, which the Islamic State, also called ISIS or Daesh, claimed credit for. Authorities found a Syrian passport near one of the suicide bombers there, although it has yet to be confirmed whether it belonged to the attacker, or whether it was stolen or a forgery. French authorities said the mastermind of the attacks was a Belgian man. 

The attacks set off a backlash against Syrian refugees. In Europe,  Poland's future minister for European affairs said the country will not implement the European Union's refugee plan in light of the attacks in Paris. In the U.S., calls to limit refugee admissions have come mostly from Republicans -- many of whom had expressed concerns about admitting Muslims from Syria in the first place.

The Obama administration plans to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees this fiscal year, all of whom will undergo security screenings that typically take 18 to 24 months. Refugees go through more extensive screening than any other group, such as tourists, students and people who cross the border.

Republicans argue, though, that those screenings are not enough and terrorists will exploit the system. It's not clear that governors can actually block certain types of refugees -- if nothing else, it would likely prompt discrimination lawsuits, and refugees are allowed to move once they arrive in the U.S., so it would be difficult to stop them from moving to their states on their own. But the governors said they can and will keep those refugees out.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), also a Republican presidential candidate, issued an executive order on Monday authorizing his government "to utilize all lawful means" to block Syrian refugees from resettling in the state.

He also instructed and authorized state police "to utilize all lawful means to monitor and avert threats within the State of Louisiana" if notified of Syrian refugees already living in the state.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) said Sunday he would "not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm's way."

In Michigan, where many Syrians have already resettled, Gov. Rick Snyder (R) also said he would aim to keep out refugees from the country.

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

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) similarly played up the state's traditional welcoming nature when saying Syrian refugees would be rejected. He said Monday that he was directing state agencies to stop admitting Syrian refugees "pending assurances from the federal government that proper security measures have been achieved."

"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," he said. "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.”

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), who previously said he was open to helping resettle Syrians, now is "not interested."

"I would say no as of right now," he told reporters on Monday. "No, I’m not interested in accepting refugees from Syria."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) sent President Barack Obama a letter telling him his state would not welcome Syrians and urging him to halt plans to admit more Syrians into the U.S. Abbott argued that any Syrian might be connected to terrorism.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) tweeted his opposition to admitting Syrian refugees:  

Obama said Monday he remained committed to admitting Syrian refugees, but they must go through rigorous screening.

He said people must "remember that many of these refugees are the victims of terrorism themselves."

"That's what they're fleeing," he continued during a press conference in Turkey. "Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values. Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both."

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