Sam Brownback Joins Chorus of Governors Seeking to Turn Away Syrian Refugees

By Shorman, Jonathan | The Topeka Capital-Journal, November 17, 2015 | Go to article overview

Sam Brownback Joins Chorus of Governors Seeking to Turn Away Syrian Refugees


Shorman, Jonathan, The Topeka Capital-Journal


Gov. Sam Brownback joined governors from other states Monday in pledging to resist efforts to bring Syrian refugees to Kansas in the wake of the Paris terror attacks.

Brownback issued an executive order prohibiting state agencies and any entity receiving state funding from assisting in the relocation of Syrian refugees to the state.

The Republican governors likely have little authority to block refugees from entering or living in their states, however.

Brownback's hard line comes even as the total number of refugees from all countries -- not just Syria -- coming to Kansas remains yearly within the hundreds. The state estimated about 777 refugees settled in Kansas during the previous federal fiscal year.

As of September, only about 1,500 Syrian refugees had resettled in the United States this year, though President Barack Obama has said the country will accept up to 10,000 Syrian refugees in the coming year.

Even 10,000 Syrians pale in comparison to the numbers of migrants seeking refuge in Europe, however. The United Nations Refugee Agency estimates upwards of 630,000 Syrians have sought asylum in Europe since 2011.

A number of governors began issuing statements Sunday and Monday saying, in effect, Syrian refugees wouldn't be welcome in their states. The statements followed signs that the individuals responsible for terrorist attacks Friday in Paris had ties to the Islamic State in Syria, and that an attacker potentially came to Europe from Syria as part of a wave of refugees.

Multiple attackers, however, likely were French nationals, some of whom had been living in Belgium. None of the governors have called for immigration or travel restrictions on individuals from those countries.

"It is imperative that we take action where the White House has not," Brownback said.

"I have therefore directed all state agencies, departments, boards or commissions not to participate or assist in the relocation of Syrian refugees to Kansas. It is unfortunate that we must take this step to protect the safety of Kansans, but the federal government cannot guarantee that Syrian refugees coming to America would not be part of a terrorist organization seeking to harm our citizens."

Brownback said America has always provided refuge for the oppressed and for those seeking freedom. But the governor said the country must be sure it isn't admitting terrorists.

Brownback suggested the U.S. should consider whether refugees fleeing from persecution in their home country may be better served by resettlement to a friendly nation closer to their own.

"Most people seeking refugee status are peaceful individuals looking for a better life. But we cannot allow an influx of Syrian refugees, without any meaningful security checks, while ISIS is promising to infiltrate the refugee process," Brownback said.

Although some states may not cooperate with efforts to settle refugees, there appears to be little basis under which states could physically block refugees from entering. States can, however, prevent their own funds or resources from assisting refugees.

The Kansas Democratic Party slammed Brownback's order, saying the governor was "channeling his fear and anger against ISIS into fear and anger against refugees. …

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