Politics

More Than Half Of U.S. Governors Say Syrian Refugees Not Welcome Now

Governors in 31 states have all said they will stop or otherwise oppose accepting additional Syrian refugees in their states at this time.

Eric Gay / AP

At a glance: Governors in more than two dozen states have spoken out against the Obama administration allowing additional Syrian refugees to be resettled in their states at this time. They are:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Several state governors announced on Monday that they will not accept Syrian refugees following the attacks in Paris, citing concerns for security.

The governors of more than two dozen states announced measures on Monday to stop or oppose any additional Syrian refugees from resettling in their states. Alabama and Michigan made similar announcements on Sunday.

The terrorist attacks in Paris have brought renewed attention to the U.S. refugee program, specifically the threat that ISIS could exploit the process to infiltrate and attack the United States. Several Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates have called on the administration to stop taking Syrian refugees, citing security concerns.

The governors of Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, and Colorado, meanwhile, have backed the Obama administration’s policy, voicing their support for accepting refugees in their states.

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan became the first Democratic governor to join the dozen-plus Republican governors in calling for a halt to new Syrian refugees.

Protecting the safety and security of our people is the first responsibility of government,” Hassan communications director William Hinkle said in a statement. “The Governor has always made clear that we must ensure robust refugee screening to protect American citizens, and the Governor believes that the federal government should halt acceptance of refugees from Syria 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.”

Refugees are extensively vetted — the process takes on average 18 to 24 months — but senior U.S. officials have said they are concerned there is a lack of on-the-ground intelligence in Syria that could be useful in the screening process.

Among Republican governors, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert made a statement that he would change his policy of supporting the acceptance of refugees if circumstances warranted — but did not do so on Monday.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal issued an executive order on Monday instructing agencies in his state to “utilize all lawful means” to stop Syrian refugees from resettling in the state.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

“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,” the order reads.

“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,” reads another provision of the order.

Similarly, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal issued an executive order in his state instructing all agencies to stop their involvement in accepting refugees from Syria.

In a letter sent to President Obama on Monday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that his state will also refuse to resettle Syrian refugees.

“Given the tragic attacks in Paris and the threats we have already seen, Texas cannot participate in any program that will result in Syrian refugees — any one of whom could be connected to terrorism — being resettled in Texas,” Abbott wrote in the letter. “Effective today, I am directing the Texas Health & Human Services Commission’s Refugee Resettlement Program to not participate in the resettlement of any Syrian refugees in the state of Texas. And I urge you, as president, to halt your plans to allow Syrians to be resettled anywhere in the United States.”

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

Ohio Gov. John Kasich similarly sent a letter to Obama, requesting that the federal government stop resettling Syrian refugees in Ohio.

“The governor doesn’t believe the U.S. should accept additional Syrian refugees because security and safety issues cannot be adequately addressed,” Kasich communications director Jim Lynch said. “The governor is writing to the President to ask him to stop, and to ask him to stop resettling them in Ohio. We are also looking at what additional steps Ohio can take to stop resettlement of these refugees.”

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley also requested the State Department not resettle Syrian refugees in her state “until I can be assured that all potential refugees from Syria have no ties to terrorist organizations.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, while ending state support for resettlement efforts, wrote in a letter to congressional leaders that it was his “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.” As such, Scott called on Congress to prevent the Obama administration from using federal funds to support Syrian resettlement efforts.

Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana said in a statement on Monday, “Effective immediately, I am directing all state agencies to suspend the resettlement of additional Syrian refugees in the state of Indiana pending assurances from the federal government that proper security measures have been achieved. 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.”

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said in a statement on Monday that he would do “everything humanly possible” to stop the Obama administration from placing Syrian refugees in the state.

“I’m currently working with the Mississippi Department of Public Safety and Mississippi Office of Homeland Security to determine the current status of any Syrian refugees that may be brought to our state in the near future,” Bryant said in a statement. “I will do everything humanly possible to stop any plans from the Obama administration to put Syrian refugees in Mississippi. 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.”

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson wrote in a tweet on Monday that he too would oppose Syrian refugees being relocated to his state, as did Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts took to Facebook with a similar statement, but directed it at resettlement agencies in the state — asking them to decline to participate in resettlement of Syrian refugees at this time.

According to the Boston Globe, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker told reporters on Monday he was “not interested” in accepting Syrian refugees. “I would say no as of right now,” Baker said. “No, I’m not interested in accepting refugees from Syria.”

“My view on this is the safety and security of the people of the Commonwealth of Mass. is my highest priority,” Baker added. “So I would set the bar very high on this.”

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said in a statement, “Given the horrifying events in Paris last week, I am calling for an immediate halt in the placement of any new refugees in Arizona.” Specifically, he called for the Obama administration to provide “immediate consultation” under the United States Refugee Act.

In a news conference, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory took similar action, saying that he was requesting that the Obama administration “cease” Syrian refugee resettlement in the state immediately “until we are thoroughly satisfied” that concerns about safety that he expressed are resolved.

Of the governors’ actions and statements, McCrory added that some of the governors will be meeting later this week: “I’m sure all of us will be speaking, as a group, in the very near future.”

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced on Sunday that they would attempt to block Syrian refugees from relocating to their states after the Paris terror attacks.

Full letter from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott:

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Full order from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal:

Full Florida Gov. Rick Scott letter:

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