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Why U.S. Governors Shouldn't—And Probably Won't—Be Able To Refuse Syrian Refugees

By aaroncynic in News on Nov 17, 2015 3:22PM

In the wake of the horrific attacks in France which killed 129 people and wounded about 350 others, the governors of at least 27 states rushed to declare Monday they would no longer accept Syrian refugees, citing security concerns after investigators found a Syrian passport near the body of an unidentified bomber.

Many, including Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, said their states would “temporarily suspend” accepting new refugees pending a review of the security process by the Department of Homeland Security.

After making the declaration, Rauner and many of his colleagues were roundly criticized by several groups.

“Governor Rauner's decision is an impulsive reaction that is a political exploitation of a tragedy rather than an effective security measure,” said Ahmed Rehab, Executive Director of the Chicago office of Council on American-Islamic Relations in a press release. “It gives a false sense of security by demonizing a population in need and plays into the hands of extremists groups hoping to alienate Muslims from western countries."

Two other Chicago-based immigrant advocacy organizations also joined CAIR in expressing their outrage towards the policy statement.

“Policies like these create an environment where violence and criminalization of all immigrants of color is not just tolerated but validated by elected officials,” said the Arab American Action Network. “Denying people displaced by wars that the U.S. plays a role in is not just hypocritical, it is cruel.” In a joint statement with AAAN, the group Organized Communities Against Deportations called on Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to urge Rauner to reverse his decision and declare Chicago a “welcoming city for all by refusing to apply the Governor’s decree.”

Chicago alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa said that Rauner lacks both the legal and moral authority to bar refugees from entering Illinois, and that the 35th Ward “welcomes Syrian families seeking safety...with open hearts and open minds. “In the face of hatred and fear, my community chooses love,” said Rosa. “Our neighborhoods will not close their doors to Syrian refugees.”

Illinois became the 7th state to declare its refusal to accept Syrian refugees, and throughout Monday more than two dozen governors and several Republican Presidential candidates made similar declarations. Despite the knee-jerk reaction to give into bigoted xenophobic paranoia however, the “evidence” that one of the terrorists was a Syrian refugee is sketchy at best, and governors don’t have the authority to refuse refugees anyway.

According to ABC and Think Progress, the Refugee Act of 1980 doesn’t give governors the authority to block refugees. Programs are funded by the federal government and run by a coordinator put in place by federal law. In fact, state governments can’t dictate immigration policy to the President in this manner. The Supreme Court Decision Hines vs Davidowitz states:

“The supremacy of the national power in the general field of foreign affairs, including power over immigration, naturalization and deportation, is made clear by the Constitution.”

Meanwhile, it turns out Syrian passports found by authorities near the scenes of the horrific attacks could all be fraudulent, and may have even been a propaganda tool used by the attackers to elicit this exact response. According to CTV Montreal, multiple copies of the passport with the name Ahmad Al Mohammad, which was found near one of the attackers body’s, have been found, and fake Syrian passports are becoming easy enough to get that a reporter with MailOnline was able to buy one for $2,000 in four days.

Moreover, Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, told The World Post this reaction is more than likely what the terrorists "wanted" to elicit:

"It’s unfortunately a smart move for ISIS to do something like that, and this is where we have to be very aware of what ISIS is trying to do and how they’re trying to provoke us.”

In fact, criminalizing all refugees or shutting down borders altogether could make it even easier for would-be terrorists to enter countries. Peter Bouckaert, the emergency director of Human Rights Watch told The World Post:

“Any attempt to shut Europe’s borders will not necessarily stop the flow of refugees to Europe but will drive them deeper underground into the hands of these criminals and give Europe even less control over who comes and who doesn’t.”