Can governors actually block refugee resettlement?
posted at 4:01 pm on November 17, 2015 by Ed Morrissey
So far, almost half of America’s governors have demanded a halt to Barack Obama’s plans to admit tens of thousands of refugees from the collapse of Syria. That includes one Democratic governor, New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan, while seven other Democrats are giving the green light to resettlement. However, neither of these positions will end up mattering, at least not legally, as governors have no authority to restrict the federal government’s actions on asylum decisions:
Under Section 412 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, states do not have the authority to refuse foreign nationals who have been granted asylum or refugee status by the federal government. Additionally, the White House does not need to consult with states on decisions to parole or give refuge to foreign nationals.
“Under the INA, the president must only seek ‘appropriate consultation’ when deciding to admit refugees. The term appropriate consultation is defined to include cabinet level representatives and committees on the Judiciary of the Senate and House. State participation is not referenced in the resettlement process,” Dale Wilcox, executive director of the Immigration Reform Law Institute, told the Washington Examiner.
However, the Office of Refugee Resettlement is required to consult with state and local governments and nonprofit agencies to accept recommendations made by state officials.
Although 26 states do not wish to take in Syrian refugees, seven — Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington — have said they will.
Even if these governors had the ability to tell the federal government not to settle refugees in their states, which they don’t, how would they enforce that once the refugees are here? Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that the Obama administration decided to settle all of the Syrian refugees in the state of Washington. What’s to keep them from loading up the family sedan and trekking to Alabama, Texas, or any of the other states that have put up the NO VACANCY sign? The US does not have internal passports or papers checks at state borders (nor do we want any), and in fact we’d have no papers to check.
In other words, these are political protests, not definitive actions. These governors might be able to use the INA to fend off the federal government if they wanted to open a resettlement center in their state, although that might still be ultimately outside their authority. But eventually, refugees who want to live in these states would get there, regardless of these statements, if Obama decided to grant asylum to the refugees. Once they’re in, they’re in, and to stay unless and until they commit an act that would prompt their expulsion. As we saw in Paris, the risk is that will be too late.
Also, it’s not like we’ve shut our doors until now; we have already been offering asylum and have taken in over two thousand refugees so far. One might expect that these would tend toward the Assyrian Christians who have been victimized by the genocides perpetrated by ISIS, but they account for fewer than 3% of those granted asylum in the US, according to CNS News:
Of 2,184 Syrian refugees admitted into the U.S. since the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011, only 53 (2.4 percent) have been Christians while 2098 (or 96 percent) have been Muslims, according to State Department statistics updated on Monday.
The remaining 33 include 1 Yazidi, 8 Jehovah Witnesses, 2 Baha’i, 6 Zoroastrians, 6 of “other religion,” 7 of “no religion,” and 3 atheists.
By comparison, Syria’s population breakdown in early 2011, before the civil war’s death toll and refugee exodus roiled the demographics, was 90 percent Muslim (including Sunnis, Shia, Alawites and Druze) and 10 percent Christian, according to the CIA World Factbook.
This has some wondering why we’re not focusing more on those fleeing obvious religious oppression and flat-out genocide, rather than just the broad population of those fleeing a war zone. The short answer to that is that the flood of the latter has stretched the capabilities of our allies, and they want us to pitch in, especially since they are on the front lines of a crisis that was mostly provoked by a US-EU misadventure in Libya and the decision by Obama to just pull out of Iraq with no residual force to sustain stability. The longer answer is that the Obama administration has avoided acknowledging the genocides as a way to push off the need to intervene to stop them — which was, after all, the supposed reason for the intervention in Libya that turned into a war of decapitation.
John Kerry points to the track record on refugee screening to essentially say, trust us:
“Since 9/11, we have allowed 785,000 refugees to come to the United States of America,” he said. “Out of the 785,000, 12 people were found to perhaps be problematic with respect to potential terror, and they were arrested or deported.”
“Do we need a process which is careful and deliberate and competent and guarantees that we know what we’re doing? Of course. And that’s exactly what we’ve been growing ever since 9/11.” …
“I think we’ve got to not run off, you know, half-cocked here in an early stage,” he said. “I think it’s appropriate for a governor to stand up and say I want to make certain, I want to protect my people,” he said. “I think we have to be thoughtful about this, Lester, and I hope the that people will step back and think hard about how we can do this in a way that can keep faith with America’s values as a nation.”
Well, maybe, but that assumes we will never find another problem among that group, including those who might have come most recently. That is a more remote possibility, perhaps, but the bigger and more acute problem with Kerry’s argument is the sense of unreality projected by Obama and his administration on ISIS and terrorism. Obama spent an hour scolding the media for questioning his policies when they have clearly failed, and refuses to even acknowledge the possibility that better options exist. When discussing refugees, Obama, Kerry, and the Left speak about values, but refuse to acknowledge the fact that this entails risk — risk that was proven in Paris. Jonah Goldberg made this point earlier today:
I'm perfectly willing to concede that most of the refugees aren't a threat. Other side unwilling to concede that some — or any– might be.
— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahNRO) November 17, 2015
And now we see that three of the Paris terrorist suspects are now known to have entered Europe as refugees:
A second suspect directly involved in the Paris massacre is on the loose four days after the attacks, according to French officials, as German police revealed a third suspect in custody apparently posed as a refugee.
French officials did not identify the second fugitive. Speaking to The Associated Press, they said an analysis of the series of attacks on Nov. 13 indicated that another person directly involved was unaccounted for.
Meantime, police said they arrested an Algerian man linked to the attacks, at a refugee center in western Germany, Reuters reports.
Police say he apparently told Syrian refugees at the center that fear and terror would be spread in the French capital. Police are looking into whether he’s an accomplice or a confidante of the Paris attackers, Reuters adds. At least two other suspects reportedly entered Europe through Greece posing as refugees.
Given that track record in Europe and the fantasies spun by the White House on their ISIS policies, the governors are right to speak out and warn of the dangers. They may not be able to stop Obama from granting asylum to 10,000 refugees, but they can make it very politically perilous for his administration and those who support it. The protest could force Congress into action, requiring Obama and Kerry to address their legitimate concerns by detailing the steps that will be used to vet 10,000 or more displaced people from a terror-plagued region, a flight that has already proven to be a pretty good cover for ISIS terrorists looking to infiltrate the West. In fact, that’s exactly what most of these governors have demanded — a process that doesn’t just rely on White House platitudes about American values, but one with a realistic and tough approach to a real and acute national-security risk.
To put it more bluntly: is it possible to operate a refugee screening program that could prevent dangerous terrorists from entering the US? Sure. Can we trust the incompetents who are in large part responsible for this mess to do so? Hardly, especially when they’ve busied themselves of late with patting their own backs about “containing” ISIS while it expands into international terrorism, while making it clear that their main concern is in moral preening in the face of legitimate concerns and criticism.
The proper long-term strategy, though, would be to fix the problem at its source. Speaker Paul Ryan, who announced that the House would vote for a “pause” in admitting refugees until the security implications and screening processes were fully realized, reminded everyone of this in a short statement earlier today:
Ultimately, this refugee crisis is a result of the failure of Obama’s foreign policy and national security strategies, as well as his laughable approach to “degrading and ultimately destroying” ISIS. Let’s not lose sight of that fact in this debate.
Addendum: Their protests can cause headaches for the White House, however, and that seems to have produced a response.
So it doesn’t seem xenophobic or crazy to call for an end to accepting Syrian refugees. It seems like simple common sense. After all, things changed after Paris.
Mocking Republicans over this—as liberals spent much of yesterday doing on my Twitter stream—seems absurdly out of touch to a lot of people. Not just wingnut tea partiers, either, but plenty of ordinary centrists too. It makes them wonder if Democrats seriously see no problem here. Do they care at all about national security? Are they really that detached from reality?
The liberal response to this should be far more measured. We should call for tighter screening. Never mind that screening is already pretty tight. We should highlight the fact that we’re accepting a pretty modest number of refugees. In general, we should act like this is a legitimate thing to be concerned about and then work from there.
Because it is in fact a legitimate concern, and the competence of this administration is another.