These States Say They Will Refuse Syrian Refugees After Paris Attacks

CREDIT: AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

Syrian refugee students participate in a lesson during the visit of the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides, to their school in Taanayel, in the eastern Bekaa valley, Lebanon, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015.

Twenty-eight Republican governors and one Democratic governor responded to the terrorist attacks in Paris by announcing they would refuse to allow refugees from Syria to be resettled in their states.

Governors from Alabama, Michigan, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Massachusetts, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, South Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Maryland, and Wyoming all said their states would not participate in the planned relocation of 10,000 refugees from war-torn Syria that President Obama announced in September.


CREDIT: Dylan Petrohilos

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said in a statement Sunday that he will not “place Alabamians at even the slightest possible risk of an attack on our people.” Also on Sunday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) said he would suspend the state’s acceptance of refugees until the Department of Homeland Security completes a full review of security clearances.

Even Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) said Monday that he does not support letting Syrian refugees into his liberal state. “No, I’m not interested in accepting refugees from Syria,” he told reporters. “I would need to know a lot more than I know now before I would agree to do anything.” Similarly, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) said Monday that “the news surrounding the Paris terror attacks reminds us of the all-too-real security threats facing America.”

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan became the first Democrat on Monday to to express support for halting the flow of refugees to the U.S. pending further security assurances.

While current Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said he’d accept refugees, new elected Matt Bevin, who will take over as governor next month, has said he would reject them, making Kentucky the 27th state on the list.

Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy (D) and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D), meanwhile, became the first governors to publicly state that their state would still accept refugees. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) followed, saying she supports Syrian refugees entering her state, before back-tracking on her comments later in the day.


CREDIT: Dylan Petrohilos

None of the governors actually have the power to keep refugees out, as it’s up to the federal government to take them in. Once they are in the country, refugees are generally free to move between states at their will.

On Sunday, the Obama administration reaffirmed its commitment to take in 10,000 refugees, who are fleeing devastation and death tolls that match the scale of the Paris attacks every day.

Obama has repeatedly assured that the refugees will undergo intense background and medical checks before entering the country. “Refugees go through the most robust security process of anybody who’s contemplating travel to the United States,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in September. “Refugees have to be screened by the National Counter Terrorism Center, by the FBI Terrorist Screening Center. They go through databases that are maintained by DHS, the Department of Defense and the intelligence community.”

Despite the security assurances and the humanitarian plea of Syrians whose safety is constantly threatened in their country, Republican politicians insist that the threat of terrorism is too great to accept refugees. Many of the Republican presidential candidates have used the attacks to admonish Obama’s relocation plans. Ben Carson on Monday called on Congress to defund the Obama administration’s refugee policy, while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Sunday that the background check plan isn’t sufficient.

“That’s one of the reasons why I said we won’t be able to take more refugees,” Rubio said. “It’s not that we don’t want to; it’s that we can’t because there’s no way to background check someone that’s coming from Syria.”

Rubio’s claims are not backed up by the departments that would be screening the refugees.

Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush, meanwhile, have said the United States should only accept Christian refugees — an argument that Obama sharply criticized during a speech Monday.

This post has been updated as more governors make announcements.