States Slam Doors on Syrian Refugees
In the wake of the revelation that at least one of the ISIS operatives who attacked Paris likely slipped into France with the huddled masses fleeing from Syria, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) have closed their states’ borders to Syrian refugees.
These decrees are a real sign of trouble for the Obama administration. The State Department wants to resettle at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in America, even though FBI Director James Comey told Congress in October the U.S. can’t screen the Syrian refugees for terrorism history because data on their background just doesn’t exist.
Now that Snyder, Abbott, and Bentley have spoken out so clearly, will Obama have to look for states run by Democrats (and he has to realize those are few and far between) to place thousands of refugees from Syria?
Snyder’s announcement that Syrian refugees would not be welcome in Michigan is a real 180-degree shift in attitude. He has been so into welcoming immigrants into Michigan that the Snyder administration set up the Office for New Americans in 2014.
There had even been talk that Syrian refugees could be the salvation of Detroit.
But the tune has changed in Michigan. Snyder is still singing a song of welcome, but the pitch is different.
"Michigan is a welcoming state and we are proud of our rich history of immigration. But our first priority is protecting the safety of our residents," Snyder said. "Given the terrible situation in Paris, I've directed that we put on hold our efforts to accept new refugees until the U.S. Department of Homeland Security completes a full review of security clearances and procedures.”
A spokesman for Snyder said he made this decision the day after the terrorist attacks in Paris.
Snyder could be a real trendsetter on this.
Two days after the Paris attacks, Alabama Gov. Bentley said any Syrian refugees the Obama administration drops off at his state’s border will be turned away.
“As your governor, I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way,” Bentley said in a statement.
Alabama has one State Department-approved refugee-processing center in Mobile. But there have been no Syrian refugees relocated in Alabama. It seems a safe bet that business will stay slow at the Mobile processing center.
“The acts of terror committed over the weekend are a tragic reminder to the world that evil exists and takes the form of terrorists who seek to destroy the basic freedoms we will always fight to preserve,” Bentley added.
“I will not place Alabamians at even the slightest, possible risk of an attack on our people. Please continue to join me in praying for those who have suffered loss and for those who will never allow freedom to fade at the hands of terrorists.”
Three days after the Paris ISIS strikes, Texas Gov. Abbott told Obama he didn’t want a single Syrian refugee in the Lone Star State.
“Given the tragic attacks in Paris and the threats we have already seen, 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 in a letter to Obama.
The first-term governor also said his best advice would be to keep the Trojan Horse of Syrian refugees out of all 50 states.
"Neither you nor any federal official can guarantee that Syrian refugees will not be part of any terroristic activity," Abbott said. "As such, opening our door to them irresponsibly exposes our fellow Americans to unacceptable peril."
Arkansas Gov. Hutchinson joined Abbott, Snyder, and Bentley Nov. 16 in barring his state’s border to Syrian refugees.
“Many of the Syrian refugees are fleeing violence in their own country but Europe, Asia or Africa are logically the best places for resettlement or for temporary asylum,” Hutchinson said.
“The hardships facing these refugees and their families are beyond most of our understanding, and my thoughts and prayers are with them, but I will not support a policy that is not the best solution and that poses risk to Arkansans.”
Indiana Gov. Pence joined the chorus of Republicans Monday who said they could sympathize with the Syrians’ plight. But like his colleagues, Pence didn’t want to take a chance on allowing terrorists to move into Hoosier communities.
“Indiana has a long tradition of opening our arms and homes to refugees from around the world but, as governor, my first responsibility is to ensure the safety and security of all Hoosiers,” Pence said. “Unless and until the state of Indiana receives assurances that proper security measures are in place, this policy will remain in full force and effect.”
Without apology or explanation, Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is also a Republican presidential primary candidate, issued an executive order Monday authorizing state officials to “utilize all lawful means to prevent the resettlement of Syrian refugees” in Louisiana.
Some government officials who are lower on the bureaucratic food pyramid were just as outraged by the thought of an ISIS terrorist slipping into their neighborhoods.
Joseph Lorigo, the majority leader of the Erie County, N.Y., Legislature sent out a series of tweets the day after the Paris attacks in which he demanded county officials stop plans to accept 300 Syrian refugees.
“After confirming at least one of these despicable individuals was a Syrian refugee, I believe the risk to our community is far too great,” Lorigo tweeted. “We must do everything we can to protect the citizens of Erie County.”
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz released a statement in which he said Lorigo’s tweets were “ignorant” because it is federal officials who will decide where to place the 10,000 Syrian refugees Obama wants to let into the United States. Poloncarz said he and other Erie County officials will have nothing to say about it.
Poloncarz also said Lorigo seemed to be “stoking the fires of Islamophobia.”
Berkeley County, S.C., officials were ahead of the curve on the Syrian refugee issue. They don’t have a single Syrian refugee in their community, and decided several days before the Paris attacks that zero would be a wonderful number.
The Berkeley County Council unanimously approved a resolution Nov. 9 saying it didn’t want anything to do with plans to resettle Syrian refugees or anyone else from the Middle East.
Councilman Tommy Newell said he couldn’t “take the chance on my 8-year-old being attacked at school” as he introduced the resolution.
Pickens County, S.C., officials approved a similar resolution before the ISIS attack on Paris.
Both Berkeley County and Pickens County officials were roundly ridiculed as country bumpkins who were not able to see the wisdom of welcoming Syrian refugees.
“The views of the Berkeley County Council don’t represent the views of South Carolinians, or Republicans even,” Omar Hossino of the Syrian American Council told NonProfit Quarterly.
“Syrian refugees must be vetted to the full extent, but for people to say they want to kick these people out because they’re ISIS when they’re actually fleeing ISIS.…It’s very odd,” he added.
Rick Cohen, the national correspondent for NonProfit Quarterly, three days before the Paris attacks described the Berkeley County Council’s concern about admitting Syrian refugees as “somewhat prophylactic.”
Cohen wrote he was worried they “don’t just embarrass their home communities and states, they send a signal to other communities that a couple of local activists can deprive legal refugees of resettlement opportunities anywhere in the country just be passing an otherwise non-binding government resolution.”
But Tommy Newell didn’t seem the least bit embarrassed when he introduced the resolution in Berkeley County to stop Syrian refugees from moving next door.
“I have to look into the eyes of my 8-year-old daughter and know that when I lay my head down at night I’ve done everything I can to keep her protected from any kind of evil that I can,” he said.
Now after the Paris attacks, the concern expressed by this county council member seems more prophetic than “prophylactic.”
This story was updated at 1:30 p.m. EST to add more states