TOPEKA, Kan. (CN) – Thirty-one governors have demanded that Syrian refugees be barred from their states, and at least two governors have signed executive orders to prevent it.
The terrorist attacks in Paris led to a slew of official and semi-official denunciations from governors and presidential candidates. Thirty of the 31 governors who have demanded that refugees be excluded from their states are Republican.
Governors of six states said they will welcome Syrian refugees.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed an executive order Monday, prohibiting state agencies and any entity receiving state funding from helping relocate Syrian refugees to Kansas, calling it an “unacceptable risk.”
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal sent out a tweet Monday: “I’ve issued an executive order directing state agency heads to prevent the resettlement of Syrian refugees in GA.”
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey called for “an immediate halt in the placement of any new refugees in Arizona.”
States cannot prevent legally admitted refugees from entering, living and working there, but they can make it difficult, and more than half of the nation’s governors say that’s what they intend to do.
The United Nations estimates that 250,000 Syrians have been killed and 11 million people have fled the country since its civil war began in 2011 – half of Syria’s pre-war population. The refugees’ plight has overwhelmed Europe.
The United States has admitted about 1,500 Syrian refugees since 2011 – far fewer people than have fled every day for years. President Obama said in September that the United States would accept 10,000 Syrian refugees next year.
Brownback said he issued executive order No. 15-07 on Monday because “We must take immediate action to ensure terrorists do not enter the nation or our state under the guise of refugee resettlement.”
He added: “It is imperative that we take action where the White House has not.”
The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that 777 Syrian refugees were expected in the state during this fiscal year. Quoting the director of the Kansas Department of Children and Families, the Capital-Journal said about 411 refugees were expected in the Kansas City metro area, about 276 in Wichita and about 90 in southwest Kansas, though those estimates applied to refugees from all nations, not just Syria.
Brownback said: “We cannot allow an influx of Syrian refugees, without any meaningful security checks, while ISIS is promising to infiltrate the refugee process.” He said that Syrians would be better off “in a friendly nation closer to their homes.”
Refugees are subjected to security checks before being given refugee status, which is one reason why the admissions process is so cumbersome.
Refugees and political asylees have different legal status, and go through different processes. Technically, in the United States, a refugee must apply for refugee status outside the U.S. borders. If granted the status, the refugee enters legally.
Political asylum applicants may apply outside the U.S. borders, but it is more common for them to enter without documents, and then reveal their presence by applying for asylum.
Both refugees and asylees must prove, to an examiner’s or judge’s satisfaction, that they have suffered persecution or fear persecution in their homeland because of their race, religion, nationality, political beliefs or membership in a social group.
Kansas Democrats blasted Brownback’s executive order and statements as wrongheaded efforts to blame terrified refugees for ISIS attacks in Paris and elsewhere.
Governors who have said they will refuse Syrian refugees – though they are not legally entitled to do so – include Alabama, Texas, Michigan, Illinois, Maine and New Hampshire.
Contrary to widespread opinion, the federal government and states spend very little money resettling refugees and asylees once they are admitted. Most of the burden is assumed by churches, volunteers and nonprofit agencies.
The head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the largest refugee resettlement organization in the country, told CNN that the most likely way for states to try to reject refugees would be by cutting whatever state programs they have for them.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted Monday: “Texas will not accept any Syrian refugees & I demand the U.S. act similarly. Security comes first.”
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said Sunday in a statement: “I will oppose any attempt to relocate Syrian refugees to Alabama through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.”
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, however, said his state will welcome them.
“It is unfortunate that anyone would use the tragic events in Paris to send a message that we do not understand the plight of these refugees, ignoring the fact that the people we are talking about are fleeing the perpetrators of terror,” Markell said in a statement.
The governors of Washington, Colorado, Vermont, Pennsylvania and Connecticut said they would welcome Syrian refugees too.
Governors of California and New York have not issued statements either way.
A spokesman for Ohio Gov. John Kasich said Kasich has written to President Obama “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.” Kasich is seeking the Republican nomination for president.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz, also seeking the Republican nomination for president, said that the United States should accept Christian refugees from Syria, but not Muslims.
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