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Commissioners ask governor to block any Syrian refugees from entering state

Nov 17, 2015 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Syrian refugees should not be settled in Wyoming, according to a message the Fremont County Commission is sending Gov. Matt Mead.

The county board passed a resolution Tuesday to write a letter expressing that sentiment.

Commissioner Travis Becker proposed the idea because of the Friday terrorist attacks in Paris.

"I would like to put a resolution together from this board to the governor stating our belief we do not believe we should allow resettling those refugees in the state of Wyoming," Becker said.

"It's too much of an unknown."

The Paris attacks left 129 dead.

Federal concerns

Becker said he is not confident the federal government would be able to screen out terrorists from refugees being resettled.

The other commissioners at the meeting immediately supported the idea. Commissioner Andi Clifford was not in attendance.

"I'm firmly in support of this," commission chairman Doug Thompson said.

He suggested urging Mead to use all of his resources to prevent Syrian refugees from being settled in Wyoming.

Commissioner Larry Allen said he agreed as well.

"I agree 100 percent," Commis-sioner Ray Price said.

Unanimous vote

The text of the letter was not clarified at the meeting, but Becker officially moved to pass a resolution "regarding our discussion."

The four commissioners present all voted for the measure. Commissioner Andi Clifford was not there.

They joined lawmakers, governors and presidential candidates around the country similarly seeking to stop or slow the settlement of Syrian refugees in the U.S. or individual states.

According to Associated Press reports, House Speaker Paul Ryan called Tuesday for a "pause" in Syrian refugees coming to the U.S. in the wake of the Paris attacks and assembled a task force to bring legislation to a vote as soon as this week.

"Our nation has always been welcoming but we cannot let terrorists take advantage of our compassion," Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters after a closed-door House GOP meeting.

"This is a moment where it's better to be safe than to be sorry, so we think the prudent, the responsible, thing is to take a pause in this particular aspect of this refugee program in order to verify that terrorists are not trying to infiltrate the refugee population."

Governors in many states also are responding to heightened concerns terrorists might use the refugees as cover to sneak across borders, the AP reports.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights group, called the governors' comments and recommendations "un-American," adding that rejecting refugees projects "our fears to the world."

Legality questioned

Lavinia Limon, president and CEO of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigration, said under the Refugee Act of 1980 governors cannot legally block refugees.

Each state has a refugee coordinator, a post created as part of that law, she said; funded by the federal government, the post coordinates resettlement efforts with agencies such as hers and directs federal funds for refugees.

Westy Egmont, director of Boston College's Immigrant Integration Lab, said the law previously withstood state challenges partly because the federal government has worked to equally distribute refugees being resettled.

Some states have worked with resettlement agencies to limit new refugee arrivals to those with family ties to the community while families or individuals with no ties to a specific state have been sent to other locations with better prospects for jobs, housing and integration programs, the AP reports.

The Obama administration has pledged to accept about 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next 12 months, according to previous reports. The State Department said the refugees would be spread nationwide, though many go on to places where they have family or cultural connections, such as Detroit, New York, Chicago or Los Angeles.

According to government statistics, the U.S. has taken about 2,150 Syrians since Oct. 1, 2011 -- most in the last year.

Many GOP candidates, already skeptical if not hostile to welcoming refugees, came out even stronger. Donald Trump said the U.S. should increase surveillance of mosques, consider closing any tied to radicals and be prepared to suspend some civil liberties.

Ben Carson said, "Until we can sort out the bad guys, we must not be foolish," and of Syrians already in the U.S., he added: "I would watch them very carefully."

Calls by GOP rivals Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush to give preference to Christian refugees prompted a sharp rebuke from Obama.

-The Associated Press contributed to this report

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