No Syrian refugees have entered Alabama under federal refugee assistance rules, and Gov. Robert Bentley declared Sunday night that they never will on his watch.
Bentley cited Friday night’s “attacks of terror on innocent citizens in Paris” in promising that he would “oppose any attempt to relocate Syrian refugees to Alabama.”
“I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way,” he said.
The Obama administration said in September that it was willing to take in at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next fiscal year as Europe grapples with the surge of migrants from war-torn regions in the Middle East and Africa.
One of the State Department’s nine domestic refugee processing centers is in Mobile, and Bentley didn’t say Sunday how he would stop the federal government from relocating Syrians in his state.
Bentley’s defiant statement came only a few hours after Ben Rhodes, President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the attacks Friday night in Paris wouldn’t change U.S. policy toward patriating refugees from the bloody civil war in Syria.
“We have very expansive screening procedures for all Syrian refugees who have come to the United States,” Rhodes said. “There’s a very careful vetting process that includes our intelligence community, our national Counterterrorism Center [and] the Department of Homeland Security, so we can make sure that we’re carefully screening anybody who comes to the United States.”
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, echoed Bentley’s view in a separate appearance Sunday on “Meet the Press.”
“There are a lot of holes, gaping holes” in the State Department’s Refugee Assistance Program, said McCaul, who spoke before Bentley made his announcement.
“We don’t want to be complicit with a program that could bring terrorists into the United States,” he said.
But Rhodes said U.S. authorities should be more compassionate.
“We’re also dealing with people who’ve suffered the horrors of war — women and children, orphans,” Rhodes said. “We can’t just shut our doors to those people.”
Rhodes agreed that “we need to sort out how to focus on the terrorists that we need to keep out of the country.” But he added: “I think we do need to do our part to take those refugees who are in need.”