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Alabama Tries to Block Refugee Resettlements

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CN) - The federal government is failing to follow the requirements of The Refugee Act of 1980 when it comes to the resettlement of refugees from Syria and other countries, the state of Alabama claims in court.

In a federal lawsuit filed in Birmingham on Jan 7, the state insists the Act "establishes a framework for collaboration and cooperation between the federal government and the states in resettling refugees."

The federal government's obligation to consult with the states is "clear and unequivocal," but the Obama administration has utterly failed to provide Alabama with sufficient information about the refugees who have been settled or will settle within its borders, according to the complaint filed by David Byrne Jr. chief legal advisor for Ala. Gov. Robert Bentley.

The state maintains it has a "solemn duty" to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens and it says it has been denied a "meaningful role and input into the process of resettlement of those refugees."

Further, the complaint says, the state is being prevented from adequately planning for the arrival of refugees and they claim that "sufficient information is lacking to ensure that certain refugees - including those from Syria - have neither provided material support to terrorists nor are terrorists themselves."

In September, President Barack Obama directed his administration to accept and resettle at least 10,000 Syrian refuges this year.

In response, Gov. Bentley issued an executive order prohibiting Syrian refugees from entering the state and he directed the Alabama Department of Human Resources and the Alabama Department of Public Health "not to participate in the resettlement of any Syrian refugees in the State of Alabama."

In a statement, Bentley said he asked the Obama Administration for information about the refugee resettlement program saying, "On three separate occasions I have sent letters to the White House requesting information on the Refugee Reception Program in Alabama and these letters have gone unanswered.

"As Governor, the Alabama Constitution gives me the sovereign authority and solemn duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of all citizens of Alabama. The process and manner in which the Obama Administration and the federal government are executing the Refugee Reception Program is blatantly excluding the states." the statement continues, "My number one concern is the safety for the people of Alabama and making sure an outdated, archaic and dangerous process that excludes the states is eliminated. We simply cannot have a federal program that impacts states yet doesn't allow states access to critical information."

The state seeks a declaration that the administration has breached its consultation duties and obligations under the Refugee Act, and that it may not place refugees in the State of Alabama until they have fulfilled those duties and obligations.

The named defendants in the suit include the U.S. State Department, John Kerry, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

In addition to Byrne, the state is represented by Robert Spotswood of Spotswood, Sansom & Sansbury LLC in Birmingham.

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