As of today, 30 state governors have issued statements saying that they plan to prohibit the entry and settlement of Syrian refugees within their states. Among other things, the governors cite fears that extremists will pose as refugees in order to gain entry to the United States, as one terrorist involved with the Paris attacks did in Europe. Interestingly enough, France has pledged to take in 30,000 new refugees despite the tragedies that occurred Friday. President Obama recently announced that 10,000 Syrians will be allowed to enter the country next year.
Legally, their plans have little effect; governors don't actually have the authority to prevent refugees from settling within their states. Ultimately, the federal government has the power to place refugees anywhere in the country. What governors can do, however, is request that the State Department not send refugees to resettle in their state. If the State Department denies their request, governors can withhold state funds that would otherwise be used to help the refugees transition.
Of the 30 states that have refused to accept refugees, all but New Hampshire have Republican governors. The growing list of states that will not accept Syrian refugees: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Earlier today, the House of Representatives voted in an overwhelming majority to approve a bill that would require an extensive screening process for refugees from countries considered to be a threat to American safety, most notably Iraq, Iran, and Syria. Forty-seven Democrats voted in support of the bill and if the Senate votes to pass the bill, President Obama will have no choice but to allow the veto-proof bill despite his vocal opposition.
According to an official at the Department of Homeland Security, the two million refugees that have already been accepted into the United States are not more likely to commit terrorism. In fact, no terrorist attacks have been committed by refugees since the United States began accepting refugees in 2001.
Sixteen Democratic governors, as well as the Republican governors of Utah and Alaska — have issued statements in support of the resettlement of Syrian refugees in their states. An additional four governors (New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Oklahoma) have voiced their support for a more intense screening of Syrian refugees as they arrive, but have not gone so far as to say that they'll block refugees from settling within their states.
Some Republican presidential candidates have recently come out against letting Muslim refugees into the country, claiming that only “proven Christians” should be allowed into the country. Ironically, many Christians, a major group within the Republican party, are among the most impassioned advocates for aiding refugees. Said Jenny Yang, vice president for an evangelical group that helps refugees, "people have been saying we want to continue to work with refugees, that what happened in Paris ... doesn’t reflect who refugees are."
Thumbnail Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.