At least 24 governors, expressing fears about terrorism, are taking action — through executive order, a request to federal officials or some other means — to prevent Syrian refugees from settling in their states.
Their stand in the name of public safety began Sunday and escalated quickly Monday, igniting a debate over whether states even have the power to refuse people based on their nationality.
The governors — in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin — were reacting to Friday’s attacks in Paris and the possibility that refugees seeking resettlement in the USA might include people with terrorist ties.
Twenty-three of the 24 governors are Republican. The lone Democrat is Gov. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire.
“There may be those who will try to take advantage of the generosity of our country and the ability to move freely within our borders through this federal resettlement program, and we must ensure we are doing all we can to safeguard the security of Americans,” GOP Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin said.
In Louisiana, Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal signed an executive order instructing state agencies to “take all available steps” to stop the relocation of Syrian refugees in his state.
Incoming Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, who is to be inaugurated Dec. 8, said his primary responsibility would be to protect Kentuckians.
Legal scholars say governors probably have little power to stop refugees from entering their states.
“The one thing I feel very comfortable saying is there is absolutely no constitutional power for a state to exclude anyone from its territories,” said Stephen Legomsky, a Washington University of St. Louis law professor and former chief counsel of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Obama administration.