Since the terrorist attacks in Paris Nov. 13, Republican governors have been rushing to declare their states won't accept refugees from Syria out of concern terrorists may be among them.
Not so fast, the Obama administration said on Nov. 26.
A letter from the Office of Refugee Resettlement told state officials they don't have the legal authority to refuse refugees based on country or religion, Fox News reported.
“Accordingly, states may not categorically deny ORR-funded benefits and services to Syrian refugees,” the letter reads. “Any state with such a policy would not be in compliance with the State Plan requirements, applicable statutes, and their own assurances, and could be subject to enforcement action, including suspension and termination.”
In all, governors in 26 states -- mostly Republicans -- have said publicly that they will not accept Syrian refugees. The refugee crisis has become a campaign issue for presidential hopefuls as well. On Nov. 16, Republican candidate Ted Cruz told CNN he would apply a religious test to potential refugees, allowing Christian refugees from entering the country, but denying Muslims.
The anti-refugee stance became more popular in the wake of the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, which left 129 people dead. At least one of the attackers was a man who posed as a refugee and was admitted into Europe by Greece, CNN said.
While congress approved a bill requiring "comprehensive background checks" for Syrians applying for refugee status in the U.S., the Office of Refugee Resettlement's letter said the federal government was already using “a multi-layered and intensive screening and vetting process involving multiple law enforcement, national security, and intelligence agencies across the Federal Government.”
“It is the most robust screening process for any category of individuals seeking admissions into the United States, and it is only after admission that ORR and our partners in resettlement begin our work,” the letter said, per Fox News.
Depending on the source, it's estimated that between four million and nine million Syrians have become refugees in other countries since widespread violence began in 2011. As many as 12 million Syrians have left their homes, according to the aid group World Vision.