Governors across the country are scrambling to close off their states to resettled Syrian refugees in the wake of the deadly terror attacks in Paris that are linked to Islamic State extremists.
The list of states climbed quickly to 23 by Monday evening, after President Obama said that the U.S. would continue to accept refugees and denounced efforts to stop those fleeing violence from coming to the United States as “shameful.”
Governors of Illinois, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maine, Iowa, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Arizona, Indiana, Massachusetts, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Alabama, Texas, Kansas, Georgia, Mississippi, and Arkansas — a majority of them Republican — have said that they are seeking to stop the relocation of new Syrian refugees to their states out of fear that violent extremists posing as refugees might gain entry to the country.
New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, who is also challenging Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) for her Senate seat, is the first Democrat to express support for halting the flow of refugees to the U.S. pending further assurances that the refugee vetting process is adequate.
“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,” William Hinkle, a spokesman for the governor, said in a statement.
The governors vowing to block refugees are making essentially symbolic statements because it’s the federal government and the nine resettlement agencies it contracts with that determine whether refugees enter the U.S. and where they settle, said Melanie Nezer of HIAS, a Jewish nonprofit group that works with refugees and who also is chairwoman of Refugee Council USA in Washington.
The State Department determines how many refugees will be accepted from which countries, and the Homeland Security Department does an extensive screening to make final decisions about who’s allowed entry, Nezer said.
The resettlement agencies then decide the best location for the refugees, typically where family members are already living, if medical treatment or other services are needed, and where there is capacity, she said. The federal government reimburses states for housing, education and other costs, she said…
“For states to be saying, ‘Well, you’re not welcome here, and we’re going to make your life as difficult as possible if you do decide to come,’ I just feel like that’s a very sad commentary on where we are today,” Nezer said.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations said Monday, “Defeating ISIS involves projecting American ideals to the world. Governors who reject those fleeing war and persecution abandon our ideals and instead project our fears to the world.”…
American University law professor Stephen I. Vladeck put it this way: “Legally, states have no authority to do anything because the question of who should be allowed in this country is one that the Constitution commits to the federal government.” But Vladeck noted that without the state’s participation, the federal government would have a much more arduous task.
“So a state can’t say it is legally objecting, but it can refuse to cooperate, which makes thing much more difficult.”
Kevin Appleby, director of migration policy at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said one tactic states could use would be to cut their own funding in areas such as resettling refugees. The conference is the largest refugee resettlement organization in the country.
Sen. Ted Cruz has struck back at President Obama’s implication that his rejection of Syrian refugees is “shameful,” telling CNN he will be introducing legislation banning Muslim Syrian refugees from entering the United States.
“What Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are proposing is that we bring to this country tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim refugees,” Cruz told CNN’s Dana Bash in Charleston, S.C., on Monday.
“I have to say particularly in light of what happened in Paris, that’s nothing short of lunacy.”
Asked what would have happened if his own father — a Cuban refugee who fled the island’s repressive Communist regime — had been told all those years ago by political leaders that there was no place for him because of security risks, Cruz said it was a different situation.
“See that’s why it’s important to define what it is we’re fighting,” Cruz said.
“If my father were part of a theocratic and political movement like radical Islamism, that promotes murdering anyone who doesn’t share your extreme faith, or forcibly converting them, then it would make perfect sense.”
A Republican senator is making the case in the days after the Paris terrorist attacks that a vote on funding the Syrian refugee resettlement should be included in any government funding bill — essentially raising the threat of a government shutdown in an effort to block the Obama administration’s efforts to accept more Syrian refugees.
Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions sent a letter to his colleagues on Monday, asking them to include a measure that would require a vote on the administration’s refugee plans and funding for resettled Syrian refugees in the spending bill that needs to pass Congress by Dec. 11 to keep the government open.
“Absent a change in the way in which Congress provides funds for refugee admissions, processing, and related matters, this ramp-up will occur despite both public and Congressional opposition,” Sessions writes of the plan to accept new refugees, outlining several concerns.
“We have no idea who these people are, we are the worst when it comes to paperwork,” Trump said Monday on CNBC. “This could be one of the great Trojan horses.”…
“We cannot let them into this country, period,” Trump said Monday. “Our country has tremendous problems. We can’t have another problem.”
The mogul also slammed German Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of the most powerful leaders in Europe, for allowing refugees into Germany. She has been under pressure to reverse an open-door policy.
“As far as Merkel’s concerned, she ought to be ashamed of herself, what she’s done,” Trump said, saying there are “riots in the street” in Germany over refugees.
Ben Carson on Monday called on Congress to block funds for programs that would allow Syrian refugees to enter the United States, just hours after President Barack Obama said Republicans should be more open to people displaced from the civil war-torn nation…
“Congress I think should defund all the programs that allow all these people to be here. Immediately. Today,” Carson said Monday in Nevada…
But Carson did rebuke the notion of only allowing in Christian refugees.
“Well, of course we don’t apply religious tests, but we should apply ideological tests, and I would be very reticent to bring in people who are ideologically opposed to the ideal of America,” Carson said.
[Paul Ryan] said Monday that he had asked President Barack Obama’s administration to provide a classified briefing for all House members on the Paris attacks amid reports that one of the terrorists involved entered Europe as part of the wave of refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war…
“Look, we’ve always been a generous nation taking in refugees. But this is a unique situation. This is a situation where you have single men coming over, which is not women and children,” he said…
“We’ve got to make sure we’re protecting ourselves,” Ryan said. “So that’s what we’re looking at. What is the best option — not just so we have an issue to talk about but so we have a result, which is to make sure we are not complicit or even facilitating of having someone come in who would seek to do us harm from Syria.”
“We’re trying to figure out what is the best legislative option we have to make sure we can prevent something like this from happening,” Ryan added.
If @SpeakerRyan will not lead & reject the importation of those fleeing the Middle East he needs to step down today & let someone else lead.
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) November 16, 2015
So what does history say about the dangers posed by refugees? Over at the Niskanen Center, David Bier who heads up the immigration policy department provides Six Reasons to Welcome Syrian Refugees After Paris. Number 2 is most relevant to the fearmongering Republicans pols:
2. U.S. refugees don’t become terrorists: The history of the U.S. refugee program demonstrates that the lengthy and extensive vetting that all refugees must undergo is an effective deterrent for terrorists. Since 1980, the U.S. has invited in millions of refugees, including hundreds of thousands from the Middle East. Not one has committed an act of terrorism in the U.S. Traditional law enforcement and security screening processes have a proven record of handling the threat from terrorist posing as refugees.
Demagoguery is the practice of a politician to gain power and popularity by arousing the emotions, passions, and prejudices of the people. For shame!
The question is particularly complicated for conservative Christians, who have become increasingly concerned in the last few years about the plight of Christians in the Middle East and simultaneously are often the most guarded about border security and increased immigration.
“This will cross-pressure the evangelical base,” said Brett O’Donnell, a political consultant who has advised GOP presidential candidates on social conservative and evangelical issues. “There is a tension here in a lot of their circles about — should we support taking any Syrians when it seems like the right thing to do? But their position on immigration is so hard line at the same time.”…
The questions of what role religion, specifically, plays in the plight of millions of Middle Eastern refugees and which groups around the world seeking relief qualify as most persecuted are intensely divisive. Many conservative Christians believe Christians are being discriminated against by not getting special migration status while others disagree, saying Middle Eastern countries are in a complicated war with many victims…
Asked to predict if debate this week will change Christians’ perspective, Appleby said “if we educate them, saner heads will prevail and people can make the distinction between a terrorist and a peace-abiding refugee.”
Alabama poses a greater risk to Syrian refugees than those refugees pose to Alabama. Syrian refugees are fleeing murder, rape, torture, barrel bombs, and chemical weapon attacks. Maybe they deserve something better than a state that has failed across almost every measure of government competence.
While Bentley and other governors simplistically contend to be acting in the best interests of their citizens, they have done nothing of the kind. Instead, they have handed ISIS an unexpected victory. ISIS wants Muslims to feel scorned, scared, and stigmatized. ISIS understands that alienated and aggrieved populations are the easiest to further radicalize. Bentley hasn’t only failed to make his citizens safer; he has given ISIS recruiters their newest talking point.
Syrians have risked everything to escape a murderous regime and the Islamic fanatics marauding across these lands. There may be no people who cling to life more than Syrian refugees, entire families who have boarded rafts and trekked thousands of miles to avoid certain death. Alabama would be lucky to have such people. But instead they are stuck with Bentley.
Recently, one of the most articulate defenders of refugee resettlement, Daniel Byman, a professor of security studies at Georgetown and a regular contributor at Slate, warned that “the true terrorism danger is that the refugees are not cared for or are welcomed briefly in a fit of sympathy and then scorned and repressed.” He’s right…
There is an alternative to large-scale refugee resettlement in Europe, though it poses many practical challenges of its own. In “Help Refugees Help Themselves,” an essay in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, Alexander Betts and Paul Collier offer a plan that would resettle Syrian refugees closer to home. While hundreds of thousands of Syrians have sought refuge in Europe, millions have instead made their way to Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. Some have found themselves in refugee camps; others have settled in cities, where they work illegally and lead a marginal existence. Betts and Collier offer a more sustainable solution: Instead of herding refugees into camps where they are forced to subsist on aid, they call for the creation of special economic zones. Essentially, a consortium of countries, including all of the major Western economies, would create financial incentives and trade concessions to spur industrial development in these zones, which would employ refugees and, in some number, citizens of the host country…
The beauty of Betts and Collier’s approach is that it provides Syrians with a measure of economic self-sufficiency and cultural autonomy in exile, and it sidesteps the challenges of integration by giving them their own space in which to flourish. Getting the Jordanians to agree to such a scheme may well be challenging. And making such industrial zones viable would require major investments not just from the host countries but from the European Union, the U.S., and rich democracies around the world, who would need to use aid dollars to convince the Jordanians to go along. Yet the costs of getting it off the ground would be a small fraction of the costs of successfully integrating refugee families into European societies that are at best ambivalent about welcoming them into their societies and economies.