Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) “does not want Syrian refugees to come into the state,” his spokeswoman said Thursday after the state went to federal court to block the Obama administration from resettling refugees there.
“One mistake in allowing a terrorist into the country certainly can prove disastrous,” said Jennifer Ardis, the governor’s director of communications. “The governor takes the safety issues very seriously.”
With its lawsuit filed in federal court, Alabama became the second state to sue the U.S. government over refugee resettlement, following Texas’s lead in accusing the Obama administration in December of failing to consult with states on the placement of families fleeing violence in their home countries, the Associated Press reported.
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After the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Bentley became one of several Republican governors to oppose the administration’s plan to resettle up to 10,000 Syrians in the United States. The lawsuit does not specifically address Syrian refugees, but “the Syrian refugee issue began the process,” Ardis said.
The Alabama lawsuit says the federal government hasn’t complied with the Refugee Act of 1980, which says the federal government “shall consult regularly” with states on placement.
Refugee resettlement is funded by the federal government, but states are in charge of contracting with local nonprofit organizations and distributing federal money to them. States also oversee health assistance to refugees through federal funded programs.
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The lawsuit charges that the federal government has failed to provide Alabama with sufficient information about the refugees who have settled or will be settled in the state.
The state has been denied a meaningful role and input into the process of resettlement of those refugees, it says, and seeks a complete file on each of the refugees that include their medical histories and a certification that they do not pose a security risk.
In November, Bentley announced that his state would not accept Syrian refugees, citing security and safety concerns and flaws in the vetting process. His administration says it has since pressed the White House for information on the resettlement program, but gotten no response.
“This is not an attack on Syrians,” Artis said. “The governor’s position is not about policy. It’s about process. We have not received any information about where the Syrians were going.”
Texas filed a similar lawsuit against the Obama administration in December, claiming that the federal government and the International Rescue Committee — one of several 20 private nonprofit groups around the country with state contracts to resettle refugees — were violating federal law by moving forward with the planned resettlement of two Syrian families.
At least 242 Syrian refugees have been resettled in Texas since 2012, the Texas Tribune reported.