The terrorist attacks in Paris have prompted two governors to announce that Syrian refugees will not be allowed to resettle in their states.
Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan and Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama, both Republicans, issued individual statements Sunday declaring that their states would not be open to refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria.
Noting Michigan’s “rich history of immigration,” Snyder’s statement said, “But our first priority is protecting the safety of our residents.”
“It’s also important to remember that these attacks are the efforts of extremists and do not reflect the peaceful ways of people of Middle Eastern descent here and around the world,” he said.
Snyder had previously been working with the federal government to determine a process for accepting refugees. “Isn’t that part of being a good Michigander?” he told the Detroit Free Press in late September, pointing out the economic and humanitarian benefits of welcoming Syrians.
Snyder said those efforts would now be suspended until further evidence of more rigid security measures.
His reversal follows a statement from Michigan state Rep. Gary Glenn, also a Republican, who said Saturday that the state “should not rush to offer an open door to the high-risk importation of individuals from a known hotbed of Islamic extremism.”
Michigan is home to a sizable Middle Eastern population, with the Detroit metro area having one of the largest in the country. Earlier this month, the city of Hamtramck, Mich., elected America’s first Muslim-majority city council.
According to the Free Press, many Syrians have already settled in Michigan, where 200 have been relocated by one agency in the past year.
In Alabama, no Syrian refugees have been relocated — and none will be allowed to settle there in the future, Bentley said in his statement.
“As your Governor, I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way,” he declared. “The acts of terror committed over the weekend are a tragic reminder to the world that evil exists and takes the form of terrorists who seek to destroy the basic freedoms we will always fight to preserve.”
Legally, the states have limited power to control the flow of foreigners into their states, with that authority reserved largely to the federal government under the Constitution. In early September, the Obama administration said it would at least accept 10,000 Syrian refugees during the federal government’s 2015 fiscal year.
At the same time, leaders in Canada and Australia have so far stood their ground on promises to welcome refugees, though they acknowledge the situation has been complicated by the Paris attacks.
An official from the office of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Saturday that the administration will move forward with its plans to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year. The announcement defies growing concern over the security risks of meeting such an early deadline.
Australia’s immigration minister, Peter Dutton, also denied a request from a member of Parliament to renege on a plan to accept 12,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq.
“Australia does not need Middle Eastern refugees or Islamic boat people!” MP Andrew Fraser wrote in a public Facebook message to Dutton, the BBC reports. “Close our borders we have enough anarchists already resident in Australia.”
Dutton told Australia’s Seven Network that while additional security checks may be implemented in light of the attacks, “Australia obviously faces a very different situation than in countries in Europe that have land borders.”
Police are investigating a Syrian passport found near the spot where suicide bombers blew themselves up outside France’s national stadium. Greek authorities have traced the passport to a refugee who was among the 198 that arrived at Leros, an Aegean island, by way of a migrant boat on Oct. 3.