Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Obama can’t beat Islamic State, but he can whip U.S. states
Opposing the Obama administration decision to accept 100,000 Syrian refugees, states may be fighting a losing battle in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks.
Citing security concerns, at least 16 governors — from Texas to Massachusetts and including at least one Democrat — informed President Obama their states will not accept refugees from the Muslim country.
“Neither you nor any federal official can guarantee that Syrian refugees will not be part of any terroristic activity,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wrote to Obama on Monday. “As such, opening our door to them irresponsibly exposes our fellow Americans to unacceptable peril.”
Like it or not, states have little or no choice.
“Governors do not have the capability to prevent a refugee who is here and admitted lawfully to the U.S. from residing in their state. It is not something they can do,” Lucy Carrigan, a spokeswoman for the International Rescue Committee, told the Washington Post.
Terri Burke, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, agreed.
“Refugee admission is a federal matter … and states don’t have veto power in this area. It would violate the Constitution for a governor to bar an entire group of refugees because of their nationality,” Burke told Watchdog.org.
The State Department maintains a list of 180 U.S. cities eligible for refugee resettlement.
Previous refugee drops have centered on cities and states with strong resettlement agencies, such as Lutherans in Minnesota and Catholics in Wisconsin.
Once in the country, refugees are free to move.
“While government may decide where refugees settle, they have a strong pattern of secondary resettlement, in which the refugees, not the government, decides,” said David North, a policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies.
“I would watch for a secondary resettlement pattern that includes post-arrival migration to Michigan, where there are a lot of Arabs, refugees and others. No state can stop such movements.”
Wherever they land, refugees come at a cost.
A report by the Congressional Office of Refugee Resettlement found that nearly 92 percent of refugees in the country were on food stamps between 2008-2013. Some 73 percent were on Medicaid, 68 percent were receiving some kind of cash welfare and almost 20 percent were in public housing.