More than Half of U.S. Governors Want to Turn Away Syrian Refugees

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Over half of the nation’s governors have said that they will not accept Syrian refugees if they are brought into the United States. The 27 different governors have mostly cited security concerns as the primary reason for being opposed to refugees being brought into their states. A state by state map of where governors stand on accepting Syrian refugees is below:

These proclamations about resettling Syrian refugees in the U.S. come as a reaction to a few different issues. The horrific terrorist attacks in Paris were allegedly propagated by at least one man who came into Europe by pretending to be a Syrian refugee. He entered Greece using a fake passport that identified him as Syrian. Additionally, President Obama recently stated that his plan still calls for the United States to absorb 10,000 Syrian refugees. It’s a combination of these two factors that seem to be motivating the backlash from governors.

How governors have been making their refusal known varies. Some, like Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia have issued executive orders to that effect. Texas Governor Greg Abbott, on the other hand, sent a letter to President Obama outlining his intention to turn away Syrian refugees. Regardless of what state governors say, however, it’s not technically within their purview whether or not the U.S. should accept refugees–it’s a federal responsibility. However, states can keep their resources from being used by the federal government, which seems like it would be the most likely way that refugees are hampered from being resettled into various states.

The controversy over whether or not to accept Syrian refugees hasn’t just been limited to state governors. It’s been commented upon by the many, many presidential contenders as well, and unsurprisingly is split across party lines. Democrats, for the most part, have supported allowing refugees in. For example Senator Bernie Sanders urged that the U.S. not turn its back on refugees fleeing oppression and civil war in Syria. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asserted her support for taking in refugees as well during last Saturday’s Democratic debate, the night after the attacks in Paris.

In contrast, many of the Republican contenders have spoken out against taking in any of the refugees. Dr. Ben Carson has not only said that the U.S. shouldn’t take in Syrian refugees, but also urged Congress to “extinguish” resettlement programs altogether. Another Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has questioned whether the refugees will be a “Trojan horse” in America, and has suggested buying land in Syria for them to go to. How they would be protected in that “swatch of land” is unclear. Senator Ted Cruz has said that we should accept only Christian refugees. Governor Jeb Bush broke from the rest of his Republican counterparts, saying that we should let in refugees but screen them intensely.

This problem isn’t going away anytime soon–the situation is worsening in Syria. Whether or not the U.S. decides to accept Syrian refugees looks to be a point of significant argument moving forward in the national conversation, as well as in the primary elections.

Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at



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