Washington state will continue to welcome Syrian refugees. That’s the word from Governor Jay Inslee. At least 19 other U.S. governors have called to block refugees from Syria in response to the Paris attacks.
In a statement, Inslee said he stands firmly with President Obama who on Monday urged against "equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism."
But many people are making that connection. One of the Paris suicide bombers has been identified as a Syrian who entered Europe in the wave of refugees.
Mark Kadel heads up the Spokane office of World Relief, a national refugee resettlement agency. He’s been inundated with calls about Syrian refugees.
Kadel: "As far away as Kalispel, Montana; as far south as Pullman, Washington, including Northern Idaho as well."
He said most people who call want to offer help. But about 10 percent are people with concerns about security, religious extremists or a tidal wave of new arrivals.
Kadel: "What they’re seeing on the news media, what’s happening in Europe is totally, totally different than our modern refugee program here in the United States."
One major way it’s different is that the U.S. puts all potential refugees through a battery of security checks.
Kadel: "By the Department of State, Homeland Security, Department of Defense, FBI and the national Counter-Terrorism Center. They have to be passed by all five of these federal agencies before they’re even allowed to even be interviewed for possible resettlement in the U.S."
That process often takes more than two years. And it’s for people in refugee camps, not for those who’ve fled to Europe.
Millions have fled a brutal civil war in Syria and the same kind of violence now linked to the Paris attacks. President Obama has called for the U.S. to accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees next year.
So far, only a few dozen have settled in the Northwest.
In his statement, Inslee also noted that the federal government, not governors, decide where refugees are resettled.
“That makes these anti-refugee comments by governors even more troublesome and of little value except to divide people and foment intolerance," Inslee said.