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State Governors Attempt to Blend Constitutional Lines with Syrian Refugees

children-crossing-border.bmpThe recent attacks on Paris that left hundreds of French citizens dead and wounded has traumatized the world at large. Unfortunately, as so often happens in the wake of a tragedy, members of the U.S. state and federal governments are reacting with fear and paranoia instead of sympathy and compassion.

It has been alleged that a number of the terrorists who attacked Paris had registered as Syrian refugees, and thus it was through the country’s refugee resettlement program that the terrorists were able to gain entry into the nation. The investigation into these claims is ongoing, and very little about the suspects, their motives, and their methods has been confirmed. However, many U.S. state governors have decided that their states will no longer accept Syrian refugees within their borders.

The Governors’ Positions

As of November 2015, more than half of the state governors have informed the media that they will not accept Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris attacks. Many of the governors have simply issued official statements to this effect, but others have promised that they will proactively resist the placement of refugees within their state, presumably through the use of the state’s police force.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott reportedly sent a letter to President Obama to officially inform the White House that Texas will not allow any Syrian refugees to be resettled within its borders, and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal released his own executive order to command all agencies in his state to prevent the entry of Syrian refugees.

The governors are taking to social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, to outline their justifications for refusing refugees. Their rationale purports to collectively rest upon the desire to protect Americans first and welcome immigrants second.

Surprisingly, a number of liberal states have joined this bandwagon, such as New Hampshire.

The Constitution’s Position

The actions of the state governors go squarely against the dictates of the Constitution, and the Supreme Court has already affirmed this position. Specifically, in the case of Hines v. Davidowitz, the Supreme Court confirmed that the Constitution clearly confirms that the power of immigration rests solely in the hands of the executive branch, and therefore the states do not have a veto to overrule President Obama on the issue of refugee resettlement.

Moreover, it is not just the Constitution that reserves the right to the executive branch but also a more recently passed law. The Refugee Act of 1980 specifically authorizes the president to admit refugees and also provides the President with very broad discretion to determine the grounds for admission.

Thus, legally the states have no power to overrule the President on this issue, but they can make resettlement of the refugees more difficult and complicated if they do not cooperate. For instance, the states could redirect money away from the resettlement programs, which is one option that some governors are already discussing.

The Rant

It’s high time that politicians stop playing these sorts of games that merely work to foment anger, fear, and possibly violence across the country. Continue to check our blog for more information on the latest immigration developments.

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The Government’s War on H-1Bs, ImmigRantings, October 11, 2012
Obama Signs Immigration Executive Order, ImmigRantings, June 15, 2012
Problems with the H-1B visa: From Work Horse to Show Pony, ImmigRantings, February 13, 2012