Multiple state governors on Monday added to opposition to relocating Syrian refugees in the United States after deadly terrorist attacks inParis last week.
Since the attacks, Republican governors of 17 states announced they would at least temporarily resist new settlement of migrants, citing security concerns. One Democrat — Gov. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire — urged the federal government to stop admitting refugees until more is known about its vetting process.
The State Department said it would not change its plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year amid ongoing conflict in the country.
Governors of these states spoke out against settlement:
Statements by the governors came as President Barack Obamaaddressed the G-20 meeting in Turkey. He called suggestions from political leaders that a religious test be applied to refugees seeking asylum in the U.S., “shameful.”
“That’s not American,” he said. “That’s not who we are. We do not have religious tests to our compassion.”
Europe’s migrant policy has been in focus after it emerged that two suspected attackers may have entered the bloc through Greece. Some European policymakers have urged restraint on a tough response.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday said his state will not accept any refugees from Syria, and he called on the U.S. to “act similarly.”
“I — and millions of Americans — implore you to halt your plans to accept more Syrian refugees in the United States,” Abbott wrote in a letter to Obama. “A Syrian ‘refugee’ appears to have been part of the Paris terror attack. American humanitarian compassion could be exploited to expose Americans to similar deadly danger. The reasons for such concerns are plentiful.”
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Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Monday he would not support requests to settle hundreds of Syrian refugees in the state. Noting that the state does not have the authority to cut off federal support for resettlement, he urged Congress to take “immediate and aggressive action” to cut off funding.
Others like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence announced they would instruct state agencies to suspend relocation of refugees in their states.
In a statement Monday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations criticized calls to bar refugees from the U.S.
“Defeating ISIS involves projecting American ideals to the world. This un-American rejection of refugees, who will face significant security checks prior to entry, sends entirely the wrong message,” the organization said.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania supported relocation plans, saying the state would not ban Syrian refugees, according to local media.
The moves Monday follow opposition to refugees from Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Sunday.
Bentley said he would oppose any attempt to relocate Syrian refugees to Alabama through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.
“The acts of terror committed over the weekend are a tragic reminder to the world that evil exists and takes the form of terrorists who seek to destroy the basic freedoms we will always fight to preserve,” he said in the statement. “I will not place Alabamians at even the slightest, possible risk of an attack on our people.”
No Syrian refugees have been relocated in Alabama to date, Bentley said. He added that the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is working with the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and federal intelligence partners to monitor any possible threats.
In Michigan, Snyder’s office released a statement Sunday saying it would not accept any Syrian refugees until the Department of Homeland Security fully reviewed its procedures, according to theDetroit Free Press.
Michigan is home to the second-largest number of Arab immigrants among U.S. states, according to the Arab American Institute. There are 120,000 Michiganders of Lebanese and Syrian descent, and 100,000 of Iraqi descent, according to U.S. website Arab America. Many are Christians.
“Michigan is a welcoming state and we are proud of our rich history of immigration,” Snyder said in the statement, according to the newspaper. “But our first priority is protecting the safety of our residents.”
Kristine Van Noord, a refugee program manager for Bethany Christian Services in Michigan, told a local radio station in October that the organization settled 27 Syrian refugees in the last fiscal year and was expecting the number for next year to be “much, much higher.”