FOR THE WEEK OF NOV. 23, 2015
Scary times: More than 30 governors resist federal plans to bring Syrian war refugees
Read an update on this issue, on Syria or on news from Paris. Summarize fresh developments.
Look for an opinion about the refugees debate from a reader or columnist. Tell why you agree or don't.
In this holiday week, find an example of something you're thankful for that also shows why America is attractive to refugees.
Soon after deadly terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, governors around this country began suggesting their states won't provide help to resettle thousands of Syrian war refugees in America. President Obama is sticking with earlier plans to admit at least 10,000 carefully screened Syrian men, women and children during 2016. At least 31 jittery governors – all Republicans except one – say their priority is protecting people in their states from the possible risk that radical Islamic extremists might sneak in among families given sanctuary. "Until a thorough and thoughtful review is conducted by the intelligence community and the safety of Iowans can be assured, the federal government should not resettle any Syrian refugees in Iowa," says Gov Terry Branstad of that state.
Immigration decisions are a federal matter beyond the governors’ control, the White House points out. "We are going to do the right thing in the right way – protecting the American people even as we provide refuge to some of the world's most vulnerable people," says Amy Pope, a presidential adviser on homeland security. "Refugees are subject to the highest level of security checks of any category of traveler. . . Syrian refugees go through additional forms of security screening."
Republican leaders in Congress and the party's presidential candidates also oppose Obama's plan. The House voted 289-137 to suspend the program allowing in Syrian and Iraqi refugees "It is better to be safe than to be sorry," says House Speaker Paul Ryan. "So we think the prudent, the responsible thing is to take a pause in this particular aspect of this refugee program in order to verify that terrorists are not trying to infiltrate." Backers of Syrian resettlement here include some Democratic governors, newspapers and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada. "We can protect our security and provide a place where the world’s most vulnerable can rebuild their lives," says Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado. A New York Times editorial says: “Confusing refugees with terrorists is morally unacceptable and, as a matter of strategy, misguided. . . . The absurd argument that Muslims are inherently dangerous could provide propaganda benefits to the Islamic State.”
Governor says: "We must never confuse the people who look to us for safety and opportunity with those who wish to do us harm. I am simply asking for assurance that the federal process will know the difference." – Rick Snyder of Michigan, one of the Republicans endorsing a freeze
White House says: "We cannot turn our backs on those most threatened by the terrorist group. The refugees . . . are fleeing precisely the type of senseless slaughter that occurred in Paris. To slam the door in their faces – to decide not to help when we know that we can help – would be a betrayal of our values. It would be un-American." – Amy Pope, deputy assistant to the president for homeland security
Columnist says: "Hey, governors, are you going to keep out foreign university students? . . . Governors, are you planning to ban foreign tourists, too?" – Nicholas Kristof, New York Times
Front Page Talking Points Archive