A growing number of U.S. governors are refusing to admit Syrian refugees, citing security concerns underscored by the terrorist attacks in Paris.
The Republican governors of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Texas, Mississippi and Florida said over the weekend and on Monday morning that they would block Syrian refugees from being resettled in their states. Meantime, the governors of Illinois and Indiana said they were temporarily suspending any resettlements and the governor of Massachusetts said he is “not interested” in accepting refugees “as of right now.”
“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,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott wrote in a letter to President Obama on Monday. “Neither you nor any federal official can guarantee that Syrian refugees will not be part of any terroristic activity. As such, opening our door to them irresponsibly exposes our fellow Americans to unacceptable peril.”
Arkansas’ Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson, announced the news in a tweet Monday:
European officials have said one of the members of the terrorist cell that killed at least 132 people in the Nov. 13 attacks was a Syrian citizen who entered the continent amid the stream of refugees fleeing the war-torn nation. The man, identified as Ahmad al-Mohammad, registered as an asylum seeker on the Greek island of Leros on Oct. 3. He blew himself up at the edge of the Stade de France on Friday night and was identified by his fingerprints.
The U.S. has resettled about 1,800 refugees from Syria so far in 2015, according to statistics compiled by the State Department. The White House has pledged to admit at least 10,000 more over the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. That’s a sharp uptick, but far less than the number received by wealthy Western nations like Germany.
Top Democratic leaders have urged the U.S. to take on a greater role in easing the humanitarian crisis sparked by the war in Syria. Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, said in September that the U.S. should increase its target to admitting 65,000 Syrian refugees, who are fleeing due to wide-scale violence perpetrated in part by the same jihadist groups behind the Paris massacre.
“We’re facing the worst refugee crisis since the end of World War II and I think the United States has to do more,” the former Secretary of State said. “I would like to see us move from what is a good start with 10,000 to 65,000 and begin immediately to put into place the mechanisms for vetting the people that we would take in.”
But in times of fear, security concerns tend to trump compassion. And in the wake of the Paris attacks, the politics of admitting refugees has just gotten much trickier.