Hickenlooper Won’t Block Syrian Refugees From Resettling In Colorado

November 16, 2015
Photo: Migrants Boat Greece (AP)
Migrants disembark from a small boat after their arrival from the Turkish coast on the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos, Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. Greek authorities say 1,244 refugees and economic migrants have been rescued from frail craft in danger over the past three days in the Aegean Sea, as thousands continue to arrive on the Greek islands. 

President Barack Obama's administration has pledged to accept about 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next 12 months. NPR reports that, so far, So far, 24 governors are seeking to block the refugees after the terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday. Those state's include:

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

Colorado U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, who represents the Western Slope, called for the whole country to stop accepting Syrian refugees immediately. But Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said Colorado is a place where refugees can "rebuild their lives." Here's the full statement from the governor's office:

“A few short days ago we witnessed another senseless act of terrorism. Our hearts go out to the families, friends and loved ones of those lost and injured in Paris, and in other acts of terror around the world.  Our first priority remains the safety of our residents. We will work with the federal government and Homeland Security to ensure the national verification processes for refugees are as stringent as possible. We can protect our security and provide a place where the world’s most vulnerable can rebuild their lives.”  

Obama is holding firm to his plan. In particular, he's denouncing calls from some Republicans to favor Syrian Christians over Muslims in the refugee influx. He says America does not have a "religious test" for its compassion.

State refugee coordinator Kit Taintor told Colorado Matters in September that the state will probably resettle about 2 percent of the 10,000 Syrians that may be resettled across the country next year.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet released  a statement late in the day calling on "partners like Saudi Arabia" to help shoulder the burden of the refugee crisis. 

“Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees are desperately seeking protection, caught between ISIS’ brutality and Assad’s violent regime.  This crisis threatens stability in the region and requires regional solutions.  As we are being asked to shoulder some of this burden, regional partners like Saudi Arabia need to step up and do more," he said. “We must continue to improve the vetting process so that we are thoroughly and rigorously checking refugees before they are allowed to come to our country.”

The New York Times reports it's not clear whether governors actually have the power to block refugees:

John Barcanic, the executive director of World Relief Chicago, a refugee resettlement agency, said in an interview that governors are typically not involved with the resettlement process.

“My hunch is that they don’t have the power to stop it,” he said. “It’s the Department of State who decides whether we’ll take certain kinds of refugees. Once somebody is in the country, I’m fairly certain that a governor doesn’t have the ability to stop somebody from living in their state simply because of their race.”

Greek authorities say 1,244 refugees and economic migrants have been rescued from frail craft in danger over the past three days in the Aegean Sea, as thousands continue to arrive on the Greek islands.

A coast guard statement Monday said rescuers responded to a total 34 incidents since Friday morning, near the islands of Lesbos — where most migrants head — Chios, Samos, Kos, Kalolimnos and Megisti.

The count does not include thousands more people who safely made the short but often deadly crossing from nearby Turkey's western coast.

Greece is the main point of entry for hundreds of thousands of people from the Middle East and Africa seeking a better life in Europe. Several hundreds have drowned making the crossing, which is arranged by smuggling gangs in Turkey.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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