Gov. Scott Walker on Nov. 16 called on President Barack Obama not to allow any Syrian refugees into the United States pending a full review of security and acceptance procedures.
Walker also said that “Wisconsin will not accept new Syrian refugees,” although he didn’t explain how the state could prevent them from relocating here. Since the start of the Syrian Civil War in March 2011, two Syrians have settled in the state, according to the U.S. State Department.
Walker’s announcement came on the heels of similar statements from the governors of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Indiana, Michigan and Illinois. All of them cited concerns raised by the Paris terrorist attacks, especially the fact that a Syrian passport was found near one of the attackers.
But despite their objections, governors do not have the power to close their state boarders to refugees. Lavinia Limon, president of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigration, said governors are prohibited under the Refugee Act of 1980 from blocking refugees from settling in their communities.
Stacy Taeuber, director of the Immigration Justice Clinic, told The Associated Press, “Once you’re lawfully admitted to the U.S. as a refugee, you have the same rights of anybody else that is lawfully in the U.S.”
After living in the U.S. for several years, refugees who meet certain requirements and pass an additional background check are allowed to apply for a green card, Taeuber added.
Republican leaders of the Wisconsin state Assembly echoed Walker, saying they don’t want Syrian refugees in the state either. Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said no refugees should be allowed in Wisconsin until steps are taken to ensure no terrorists slip through.
In September, the Obama administration said it would accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees as the nation’s European allies deal with the influx of migrants fleeing war-torn regions in the Middle East and Africa.
“The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism, the most vulnerable as a consequence of civil war and strife,” the president said at the conclusion of the G20 summit in Turkey.
Ben Rhodes, the Obama administration’s deputy national security adviser, said on NBC’s Meet the Press that the massacre in Paris would not alter the U.S. policy toward taking in Syrian refugees.
See ACLU’s response to Walker.