Bentley says governors want answers on refugees

Published 8:33 pm Tuesday, November 17, 2015

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said Tuesday that governors want answers about the vetting of Syrian refugees, while aid organizations said slamming the door on them is the equivalent of signing refugees’ death warrants.

“We’re asking for answers on how these individuals who will be coming here, how they will be vetted and whether or not they will be vetted,” Bentley told reporters Tuesday. “One mistake on our part could lead to tragedy.”

More than 20 governors are questioning, or actively fighting, the settlement of Syrian refugees within their states. Bentley said governors have sympathy for the plight of refugees fleeing terrorism, but their top concern must be the safety of their own people.

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Refugee aid organizations criticized the pushback from states, saying refugees are the most vetted immigrants to the United States, and the reaction is playing into the hands of terrorists.

“To close the door on resettling Syrian refugees would be nothing less than signing a death warrant for tens of thousands of families fleeing for their very lives. If ISIS had hoped their attacks in Paris would provoke the U.S. and its allies into reacting with small-minded panic, some governors are helping them their wish,” said Linda Hartke, president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

The governor on Tuesday stood by his stance that he could act to block refugees, despite immigration experts’ view that governors have little input since the refugee program is federally run.

Bentley sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Tuesday saying that Alabama agencies will not assist in Syrian refugee resettlement.

Hartke said refugees are entitled to some services as legal residents of the United States.

Obama’s administration has pledged to accept about 10,000 Syrian refugees, saying the U.S should do more to help those fleeing terrorism.