DETROIT—Several U.S. governors are threatening to halt efforts to allow Syrian refugees into their states in the aftermath of the coordinated attacks in Paris, though an immigration expert says they have no legal authority to do so.
The governors are responding to heightened concerns that terrorists might use the refugees as cover to sneak across borders. Authorities said a Syrian passport was found near one of the attackers, and the Paris prosecutors’ office says fingerprints from the attacker match those of someone who passed through Greece in October.
Millions of Syrians have fled to neighboring Middle Eastern countries and Europe, and President Barack Obama’s administration has pledged to accept about 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next 12 months. The U.S. State Department said the refugees would be spread across the country. Republican presidential candidates have criticized the plan.
In response to the calls from governors to prevent Syrian refugees from coming to their states, Lavinia Limon, president and CEO of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigration, said under the Refugee Act of 1980 governors cannot legally block refugees from settling in their communities.
Here’s a look at where some states stand:
Republican Gov. Robert Bentley announced Sunday that he would refuse Syrian refugees relocating to the state, saying: “I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way.” Bentley’s news release said the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency was diligently working with federal officials to monitor any possible threats. There has been no credible intelligence of terror threats in Alabama so far, according to the governor’s office.
Gov. Doug Ducey is joining a growing list of Republican governors calling for an immediate halt to the placement of any new refugees from the Middle East. And Ducey made it clear that the state is within its legal rights to do so, saying that he is invoking the state’s right under federal law to immediately consult with U.S. officials on any new refugee placements. He also wants Congress to change the law to give states more oversight over refugee placement. Ducey says national leaders must react to protect its citizens.
Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he opposes Syrian refugees being relocated to Arkansas. Hutchinson, a former undersecretary of the federal Department of Homeland Security, said he doesn’t believe the United States should be a permanent place of relocation for the refugees and that he thinks Europe, Asia or Africa are logically the best places for resettlement or temporary asylum.
Colorado’s governor isn’t ruling out Syrian refugees in the wake of terror attacks in Paris. But Gov. John Hickenlooper said Monday the federal government needs to make sure the verification process for refugees is “as stringent as possible.” Colorado has received no Syrian refugees, according to state officials.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy says Connecticut will continue to accept refugees from Syria. The Democrat told NBC Connecticut on Monday the state is committed to accepting the refugees and believes background checks could easily be performed and his spokesman, Devon Puglia, said the administration is continuing to work with federal officials and await guidance as “they develop procedures following the tragedy in Paris.”
Gov. Rick Scott is calling on Congress to block attempts by the Obama administration to relocate 425 Syrian refugees to Florida. The Republican governor on Monday wrote a letter to congressional leaders that asked them to take “immediate and aggressive action” to prevent the relocation of Syrian refugees without an “extensive evaluation” of the risk the refugees may pose to national security.
Gov. Nathan Deal says the state will not accept Syrian refugees. Deal, a Republican, says he issued an executive order on Monday directing state officials to prevent resettlement of Syrian refugees in Georgia. He also asked the Obama administration to work with Georgia officials to confirm the backgrounds of 59 Syrian refugees already resettled in Georgia.
Gov. Bruce Rauner joined the growing list of Republican governors who announced they want to prevent Syrian refugees from relocating in their states. In a statement issued Monday, Rauner said the state will “temporarily suspend accepting new Syrian refugees and consider all of our legal options pending a full review of the process by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.” State officials say 169 Syrian refugees have settled in Illinois since 2010.
Saying he wants to protect residents of his state in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris, Gov. Terry Branstad acknowledged that governors might not be have the legal authority to prevent the Syrian refugees from relocating to their states because “this is a federal program.” Still, the Republican says he wants more information from the federal government about where people are being placed and the vetting process.
Republican Gov. Mike Pence announced Monday that he was ordering state agencies to suspend the relocation of any more Syrian refugees to the state until he received assurances from the federal government that proper security measures had been taken.
Kentucky’s incoming Republican governor has joined governors of several states in opposing the resettlement of Syrian refugees. Republican Gov.-elect Matt Bevin’s stance is at odds with Kentucky’s current governor. Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear says Kentucky should do “the Christian thing” and welcome all refugees who have passed extensive background checks. Kentucky started settling Syrian refugees in 2014, when 63 people arrived from the war-torn country. So far this year, another 26 have settled in Kentucky. About half the 89 total have been children.
Gov. Bobby Jindal—a GOP presidential contender—said he wants more information from the White House “in hopes that the night of horror in Paris is not duplicated here.” Jindal sent a letter to the White House on Saturday, demanding to know how many Syrian refugees have been resettled in his state. He also wants to know the extent of background screening before Syrians entered the U.S. United States as well as what monitoring would be done once the refugees make it to Louisiana.
Gov. Paul LePage says it is “irresponsible” to allow Syrian refugees into the country in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris. The Republican governor, who said he does “not know for certain” if Maine has any Syrian refugees right now, plans to point out in a radio address on Monday that one of his first actions as governor was to prevent Maine from serving as a “sanctuary state” for people living in the country without legal permission.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan says the state will “make a very reasoned and careful decision” about how it will proceed in policy regarding potential Syrian refugees. The Republican governor said Monday the issue is one that “we’ll be looking at very closely.”
Gov. Charlie Baker says he’s opposed to allowing more Syrian refugees into Massachusetts in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris and that he wants to know much more about the federal government’s vetting process before allowing them into the state. Democratic Boston Mayor also says he wants to know about how the federal government screens refugees.
Gov. Rick Snyder had bucked many fellow Republican leaders by welcoming refugees to Michigan, which has a large Arab-American population. But he said Sunday that the state is postponing efforts to accept refugees until federal officials fully review security procedures and clearances. Snyder said that while he is proud of the state’s history of immigration, its “first priority is protecting the safety of our residents.”
Gov. Phil Bryant said Monday that he’s trying to find out if there are any plans by the federal government to relocate any Syrian refugees in the state and if there are the Republican said he will “do everything humanly possible” to stop it.
New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan says the United States should halt the acceptance of Syrian refugees until intelligence and defense officials can assure a strong process for vetting refugees. Hassan also says more facts are needed on how the attackers got into Paris before the United States takes more Syrian refugees.
Gov. Tom Wolf said his administration will keep working with the federal government to properly screen and resettle Syrian refugees in the state. The Democrat said Monday that the federal government thinks it can handle an additional 10,000 refugees that the White House said in September that it would accept from Syria.
Gov. Gina Raimondo said in September she’s willing to help if the federal government asks Rhode Island to host Syrian refugees. Raimondo’s spokeswoman says the governor would coordinate closely with the White House and law enforcement if the state receives a request now.
Gov. Nikki Haley says she’s re-evaluating international refugee programs in light of the terrorist attacks in Paris but continues to support allowing the persecuted to come to South Carolina. She says no Syrians have been brought to South Carolina. She says refugees from other nations in South Carolina have been persecuted for being Christians, for their political views or because they were interpreters for American military personnel.
Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday ordered Texas’ refugee resettlement program not to accept any more Syrians in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks. In a letter to Obama, the Republican also urged scrapping federal plans to accept more Syrian refugees into the country as a whole. He said the federal government can’t perform “proper security checks” on Syrians. Texas officials estimate about 200 Syrian refugees have been resettled in Texas last fiscal year.
A spokesman for Virginia’s governor says his public safety team is communicating with federal authorities about refugee resettlements, including those involving Syrians. Brian Coy issued the statement Monday on behalf of Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe. The statement says every refugee settled in the U.S. undergoes intensive security screening.
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin says his colleagues across the nation who say they won’t allow Syrian refugees into their states are “stomping on the qualities that make America great.” Shumlin says there is an extensive screening process in place for refugees. Since 1989 about 7,000 refugees have been resettled in Vermont and while none of them are from Syria, there are plans to settle a small number in the state during the current fiscal year.
Gov. Jay Inslee says Washington state will welcome Syrian refugees if the federal government ultimately decides the state will receive any of those the Obama’s administration has pledged to resettle over the next year. Inslee criticized other governors who have threated to stop accepting refugees following last week’s attacks in Paris. From October 2014 through September of this year, 25 Syrian refugees have settled in Washington state.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s office says he does not anticipate a federal request for placement of refugees in West Virginia. In a statement, Tomblin’s office says the governor has not been contacted by the federal government regarding large-scale placements of Syrian refugees, and that any smaller placements likely would take more than a year. The statement says the state would ensure “that proper security screening was conducted by federal and state officials.”
Gov. Scott Walker said in September that the United States should not take in any more refugees from Syria and now, in the wake of the terrorist attack in Paris, Republican leaders of the Wisconsin state Assembly are saying the same thing. They’re circulating a letter they plan to send to President Barack Obama’s administration saying they don’t want any Syrian refugees.