In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, more than a dozen U.S. states have said they will not allow the admission of Syrian refugees.
States like Michigan, Alabama and Texas have said that they will not accept new Syrian refugees until a review is conducted. This comes in the wake of the attacks that occurred in multiple locations across the French capital, wherein at least 129 were killed and 350 others were wounded.
However, a State Department spokesman said the legality of the matter remains unclear.
President Barack Obama has asked that the country should “step up and do its part” to help people escaping the civil war in Syria, BBC reports. “Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values,” he said. “Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both.”
The Republican states that have said will not allow the acceptance of refugees are South Carolina, Oklahoma, Idaho, Maine, Nebraska, Texas, Arkansas, Arizona, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Massachusetts, Ohio, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Georgia and Illinois.
Concerns over the inflow of refugees and migrants sparked after a Syrian passport was discovered near one of the dead attackers. The attacker had migrated in October through Greece.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott wrote an open letter to Obama, wherein he said, “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. Neither you nor any federal official can guarantee that Syrian refugees will not be part of any terroristic activity.”
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said the state will not permit admission of new refugees until the US Department of Homeland Security “completes a full review of security clearances and procedures.” In the past year, 200 refugees from Syria have been resettled in the state.
With growing concerns over the migrant crisis, the legality of whether governors can block refugees from settling in their states is being widely discussed.
In September, Secretary of State John Kerry had said the U.S. will up the number of migrants it accepts each year, Yahoo News reports. By 2017, he added, this number will be increased to 100,000 a year.
Deborah Anker, a professor of law at Harvard Law School, said, “The federal government has the power over immigration. If they admit Syrian refugees, they’re here. People aren’t going to the (state) border. The federal government is going to bring them in.”