Should the U.S. suspend resettlement of Syrian refugees because one of the Paris attackers reportedly entered Europe with the recent flood of people fleeing ISIS?
At least 31 U.S. governors say yes. Not Gov. Jay Inslee – he said Washington state will keep welcoming the refugees.
“This is one of those times to really dig deep and see what kind of character the nation and my state has,” Inslee said.
But Chris Vance, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate seat held by Patty Murray, told KUOW’s Bill Radke that the Paris attacks have changed things.
“Before the Paris attacks, I supported locating some refugees here in the name of compassion and helping those fleeing ISIS,” he said. “But now that we know for certain that one of the terrorists in Paris infiltrated that country through the refugee program, I think we have to take this seriously and federal officials need to slow down and suspend this program for now.”
He said resettlement could resume once the president could “assure everyone to their satisfaction that no terrorists are going to use this humanitarian program to enter the United States.”
Anny Khan, founder of Americans for Refugees and Immigrants, called such positions “demagoguery.”
“I think it’s very childish to compare the USA’s intake process to the European process. Our process is completely different. We have nothing to be afraid of,” she said. “Can you tell me any refugees who have committed acts of terrorism in America? Nobody who wants to commit mass murders is going to go in a refugee camp, sit there for two to 18 years just to come to USA to commit terrorism.”
Europe is facing a wave of hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Mideast arriving by land and sea with little screening. In this fiscal year, the U.S. is allowing a total of 85,000 refugees from all countries. Of those, 10,000 spots are set aside for Syrian refugees.
According to State Department officials, refugees receive the most stringent security process for anyone coming into the U.S.
Washington state is expected to get about 3,500 refugees from all countries this year, and a small percentage of those will be from Syria, KUOW reporter Liz Jones said. So far this year, only a couple of dozen people from Syria have come here.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has said her state will continue to accept Syrian refugees, but Idaho Gov. Butch Otter wants to block them.
Ultimately, federal officials decide which refugees are admitted and where they are resettled.
But state officials can make it much more difficult to resettle refugees, KUOW’s Jones said. And she said governors are pushing Congress to withhold funding or to get President Barack Obama to change the resettlement plan.
In an NPR interview, Inslee said the U.S. shouldn't make the same kind of decision that resulted in Americans of Japanese descent being sent to internment camps in World War II.
"It wasn't consistent with who we are as a country," Inslee said. "And we look back at that now and say that we lost our way."