The issue of U.S. states taking in Syrian refugees became a major political football last year after the ISIS orchestrated terrorist attacks in Paris.
In the wake of the terrorism, a group of governors said their states would not take Syrians. They include Greg Abbott, the Governor of Texas who wrote to President Obama to say the state would not accept Syrian refugees and implored the President to halt plans to allow any more Syrians into the United States.
Abbott wrote that the threat posed by ISIS to Texas is “very real.” He cited an attempted gun attack in Garland in Texas a year ago and said the United States was not geared up to identify potential terrorists among the influx of refugees from Syria.
In all, 31 states proclaimed they would not welcome refugees from Syria after the Paris attacks, CNN reported. At least one of the attackers was reported to have entered France as part of an influx of Syrian refugees.
Can the Governors Restrict the Influx of Syrian Refugees?
No. Refugees are a federal issue. The Refugee Act of 1980 allows the federal government to place refugees anywhere in the country. Governor Abbott and other state governors do not have the power to overrule President Obama about whether refugees can be accepted.
Kevin Appleby, director of migration policy at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CNN that states have the ability to reduce their own funding toward the resettlement of refugees. However, many of these programs are tied to receiving federal funds and such an action could jeopardize the programs at a local level.
Secondly, the refugee situation in the United States is not analogous to that in Europe where border authorities have been overwhelmed by the flood of people who are escaping from Syria.
The United States has a rigorous screening process and it can take 2-3 years from the time a refugee is cleared before coming to the United States.
Initially, a U.N. refugee must register with the United Nations agency (UNHCR), which makes a referral to the resettlement country. The UNHCR makes a judgment on whether the applicant is a vulnerable person including whether they are injured and whether they face danger in their home country. To enter the United States, refugees from any nation and their family members must prove they have no ties to terrorism. The same factors that are considered with refugees are factored in with asylum seekers. The main difference is that asylum seekers are already in the United States. Peek and Toland, PLLC, helps asylum seekers who come through the main USCIS office in Houston.
Newsweek reported that since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, 23,000 refugees have been referred to the United States by UNHCR and 2,281 have been admitted to the country.
When you consider that the devastating conflict in Syria has created 4.7 million refugees, the number of refugees from the country who have been admitted to the United States is a tiny fraction of the overall number. The unwelcoming stand taken by Governor Abbott is symbolic more than anything else.
If you are coming to Texas because you have escaped persecution in your home nation, you are likely to be experiencing a lot of trauma and uncertainty. At Peek & Toland , our compassionate attorneys can help you and ensure you meet all the deadlines and time limits as well as the criteria for approval. We have an office in Houston, the same location as the government’s Texas asylum center. Contact our office today to get started on your application.