Abbott said that “American humanitarian compassion could be exploited.” “Neither you nor any federal official can guarantee that Syrian refugees will not be part of any terroristic activity,” Abbott, a Republican, wrote. “As such, opening our door to them irresponsibly exposes our fellow Americans to unacceptable peril.”
Ed. Note: Not in our backyard! Governor Abbott spoke up for Texas and Texans on Monday, November 16. At our time of publication were were at least 12 (NBC News) state governors that forbid the Federal government from resettling Syrian refugees in their states. It is heartening to see backbone at the state level. From the top? We can only wish.
Republished from TrailblazersBlog.DallasMorningNews, by Tom Benning, November 16, 2015. Image credit: Michael Ainsworth/The Dallas Morning News
AUSTIN – Texas will not participate in the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris terrorist attack, Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Monday.
The governor wrote to President Barack Obama to express concerns about the vetting process to resettle refugees in the U.S. Citing the possibility that one of the terrorists in Paris was a Syrian refugee, Abbott said that “American humanitarian compassion could be exploited.”
“Neither you nor any federal official can guarantee that Syrian refugees will not be part of any terroristic activity,” Abbott, a Republican, wrote. “As such, opening our door to them irresponsibly exposes our fellow Americans to unacceptable peril.”
Abbott joined Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, both Republicans, to announce such a policy in recent days. The governors — nearly all Republicans — in more than 10 other states did the same on Monday.
Though Abbott said that Texas now “will not accept any refugees from Syria,” the actual implications of his stand remain to be seen.
He said he directed the Texas Health & Human Services Commission’s Refugee Resettlement Program to not partake in the resettlement of any Syrian refugees. But he can’t – and that action wouldn’t – bar a Syrian refugee accepted by the U.S. from settling in Texas, experts said.
Still, there could be an impact, said Denise Gilman, co-director of The University of Texas Law School’s Immigration Clinic.
“It sends a message of exclusion,” she said. “So it may be the case that communities would not be inclined to settle here that otherwise might have.”
Texas has taken in more than 210 refugees from war-torn Syria in the last 14 months, according to state officials. But as strife continues in the Middle East, there are also other Syrian immigrant families – in Dallas and elsewhere – that aren’t official refugees.
Obama has pledged to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year – and on Monday, he forcefully defended that plan.
“Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values,” he told reporters in Turkey.
The U.S. takes in 70,000 refugees each year from all over the world. Though Texas is known for its tough immigration stance – particularly as it relates to Mexico – it has been the top resettlement state for many years for receiving officially declared refugees.
The process of resettling as a refugee in the U.S. typically begins with an application to the United Nations. The case would then be sent the U.S. State Department, which would work with other agencies to screen and background check the person.
The screening process can take multiple years. White House officials have defended the safeguards in place, and Obama told reporters on Monday that “even as we accept more refugees, including Syrians, we do so only after rigorous security checks.”
But Abbott cited testimony from FBI Director James Comey about concern with being able to do proper security checks on Syrian nationals. And he pointed to a couple recent Texas connections to ISIS, adding that the “threat posed to Texas by ISIS is very real.”
“Texas cannot participate in any program that will result in Syrian refugees – any one of whom could be connected to terrorism — being resettled in Texas,” Abbott wrote.
The direction to the state Health & Human Services Commission could cut off some funding — routed through the state — that could be used for the resettlement of Syrian refugees, said Gilman, the immigration expert. But she added that Abbott’s stand was “mainly a political message.”
“Once the United States government determines that somebody should be resettled to the U.S., as a refugee, they can live wherever they want,” she said. “It’s unconstitutional to require any individual to remain in a particular state or to disallow movement across a state’s border.”
The governor’s announcement was nonetheless cheered by fellow Republicans in Texas.
House Speaker Joe Straus said that he shares “Abbott’s concern that relocating refugees to Texas without thorough background reviews compromises our security.” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Texas stands “ready to help those in need, but not at the expense of the safety and security of our own people.”
The Texas Democratic Party, however, said in a statement that “we cannot let terrorists overpower our love and compassion for our brothers and sisters fleeing violence across the world.”
“America’s refugee screening process is unique and the most rigorous and comprehensive in the world,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, the party’s chairman. “Governor Greg Abbott should know that.”
Republished from Trail Blazers Blog/Dallas Morning News. CLICK HERE to read the original.
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