The governors of Alabama and Michigan on Sunday
that they would not accept refugees from Syria, in the wake of Friday's terror
attacks in Paris and today Greg Abbott the Governor of Texas also said he would
not be taking in any refugees.
|Michigan Gov Rick Snyder (R) with Obama|
The announcement from the office of Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley on Sunday acknowledged that there were no plans to settle refugees in the state, or credible terror threats directed at Alabama. But the statement from Bentley said he would "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 those who will never allow freedom to fade at the hands of the terrorists,” Bentley said.
Also Sunday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's office released a statement saying the state would not be accepting any Syrian refugees until the U.S. Department of Homeland Security fully reviewed its procedures.
“Michigan is a welcoming state and we are proud of our rich history of immigration," Snyder said in the statement. "But our first priority is protecting the safety of our residents."
The civil war in Syria, which has raged since 2011, has killed 250,000 people and, according to the United Nations, sent more than 4 million refugees into other countries to flee the violence in what has been called the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II.
The vast majority of the refugees have gone to Europe or neighboring countries. The United States accepted 1,854 Syrian refugees through September; more than 10 times as many have been admitted from Myanmar. The Obama administration has indicated that it plans to increase that number to 100,000 by 2017, which human rights advocates call inadequate to address the depths of the crisis. The U.S. accepted at least 130,000 South Vietnamese refugees in the months after the fall of Saigon in 1975.
At least 132 people were killed and hundreds injured in a series of attacks that took place around Paris on Friday evening. Several of the attackers have been identified as French citizens. According to French prosecutors, a bomber who targeted the national stadium was found with a Syrian passport.
The passport's discovery raised concerns that Islamic State militants may be crossing into Turkey before moving to Western Europe alongside the hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants who have entered Europe this year, many of them fleeing the civil war in Syria.
Snyder's announcement Sunday is a step backward from recent efforts and comments from his administration offering to aid refugees. In September, Snyder said he was working with the federal government to determine the process for accepting refugees from the ongoing crisis in Syria and the Middle East.
His reversal drew immediate and divisive reactions across the nation on Sunday, but especially in metro Detroit, home to one of the largest Middle Eastern populations in the nation.
Detroit-area Arab-American leaders and refugee advocates said Sunday they understand the governor's concern about security, but argued the Department of Homeland Security already does extensive security checks before allowing any refugees into the U.S.
More Syrian refugees were expected in Michigan in coming months, but Snyder's decision could bring an end to that.
According to the U.S. Census, 3.5% of Alabama’s population in 2014 was born in a foreign country. The national average was 12.9%.
Bentley in 2011 signed a sweeping bill that attempted to criminalize undocumented immigrants living in the state. Most elements of the law have been struck down by the federal courts.
Several other Republican governors Sunday questioned plans to increase the number of refugees resettling in Alabama, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Bentley's statement said neighboring states had accepted Syrian refugees; Louisiana has accepted 14; Syrian refugees also have settled in Atlanta, Memphis and Nashville.
Snyder has been known for his pro-immigrant views, in contrast to strong anti-immigrant sentiment heard on the national level in the Republican Party during the presidential race.
Two weeks ago, Snyder visited Hamtramck, Michigan - which has the highest percentage of immigrants among all cities in the state and just elected a majority Muslim city council, telling a crowd of Bangladeshi Americans: "I believe I'm the most pro-immigration governor in the country."
The Office of Refugee Settlement in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said 107 refugees were settled in Alabama in fiscal year 2014. Thirty-six came from Iraq; 22 came from Somalia. In all, 381 refugees were settled in Alabama between 2011 and 2014. One Syrian refugee was settled in Alabama in fiscal year 2012. The state's total population is 4.8 million.
Bentley's statement said the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency "is working diligently with the FBI, DHS and federal intelligence partners to monitor any possible threats."
|Texas Gov Greg Abbott|
"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 said in a release.
Abbott said the U.S. government does not have access to the proper background information to conduct security checks on Syrian refugees.
"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."