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A Bill Allowing Governors to Reject Refugees
01/27/2017 Congress Seth L
keywords: Refugees States Rights

Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have sponsored a bill that would allow state governors to refuse to accept refugees that the federal government would like to resettle in their states. Resettlement of refugees in the U.S. is not a popular concept at the moment, and 31 state governors have made objections to accepting refugees — especially from the war-torn country of Syria — on security grounds.

"In the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks, over half of state governors, including Governor [Wayne] Abbott of Texas… told the [Obama] administration that they will not accept Syrian refugees,” Rep. Poe explained to conservative website Breitbart News. “One of the Paris attackers was disguised as a Syrian refugee, so governors are concerned about bringing thousands of Syrians into their states."

Poe said he wasn't aware of any previous litigation that has been brought on laws related to the resettlement of refugees. "Let’s resolve this now with legislation, instead of having to wait for years to battle it out in court. This is an issue the states’ governors should be able to decide.” The bill, H.R. 4032, is otherwise known as "The States' Right of Refugee Refusal Act," and it has 13 additional cosponsors.

In Texas, in particular, Republican Governor Abbott ordered his state Health and Human Services Commission Refugee Resettlement Program to specifically "not participate in the resettlement of any Syrian refugees in the state of Texas."

"Given the tragic attacks in Paris and the threats we have already seen, 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,” said Abbott. "Current federal law does not clearly give governors the absolute right to refuse. This matter will end up being fought in long court battles if Congress does not act to clarify the law. ISIS has threatened to attack our homeland. We should believe them.”

Rep. Poe concurred. According to him, during a House Homeland Security committee meeting in September, "The Director of the FBI even stated that he does not believe we have enough resources to screen the refugees. We should allow state governors to take action to protect their citizens."

Texas Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) released a video from that hearing showing Nicholas Rasmussen, the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center from the Obama administration, appearing dumbfounded during questioning. Obama administration Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson also dodged a question regarding many refugees overwhelmingly being able-bodied males.

In Rep. Smith's opinion, "[Obama's] insistence that we move[d] forward with his refugee plans [was] irresponsible, tone-deaf to the reality of security threats and out-of-touch with the American people. At a time when we are on high alert, all plans for relocating Syrian refugees should come to a screeching halt. We should not allow Syrian refugees into our country until this administration can guarantee that they pose no danger to the American people."

The bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.

Rep. Poe clarified that "Right now, the federal government can just advise the governors of their intentions and say they have ‘consulted.' This is a states’ rights bill."

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