Dayton not against refugees coming to MN – but do governors have a choice?


The White House has a plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S. next year, and that has not changed despite last week's terrorist attacks in Paris – where one of the suspected attackers may have entered France as a refugee, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Because of that, state governors across the U.S. are publicly announcing their support or objection to the plan.

That includes Minnesota's DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, who according to FOX 9 issued a statement yesterday that says his "first priority" is making sure Minnesotans are safe, but did not refuse refugees coming to the state, saying:

“I have been assured by the White House that all refugees are subject to the highest level of security checks of any category of traveler to the United States.”

That process can take anywhere from two months to years, the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants explains, and includes being referred to a U.S. agency, an in-person interview with a U.S. officer, a family tree, approval and matching with a refugee resettlement organization, plus medical clearance and a security check that is more in-depth depending on the country of origin.

Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt, a Republican from Crown, sent a letter to Dayton urging him to ask the White House to halt the refugee program, noting the FBI director recently testified there are gaps in the screening process.

26 governors in opposition

In Wisconsin, Republican Gov. Scott Walker said in a statement Monday his state "will not accept new Syrian refugees," and called on President Barack Obama to suspend the refugee program until it has been reviewed and deemed secure.

Walker is one of 26 governors to come out and say they will not accept, or are opposing, bringing Syrian refugees into their states, Buzzfeed reports. The majority of them, FiveThirtyEight found, are Republican.

According to the New York Times, the U.S. has accepted 1,854 Syrian refugees since 2012, with only a handful coming to Minnesota. Comparatively, Germany has taken in 92,991 Syrian refugees in that same time.

Can they actually do anything?

But here's a question: does it matter what these governors say, whether for or against accepting refugees?

Not really, according to ThinkProgress.

The political news site – which calls itself "progressive" but bipartisan – cites a couple of U.S. Supreme Court cases, as well as the Refugee Act of 1980, to explain how states really don't have a say in whether refugees come into the country.

States can make things difficult however by doing things like refusing to cooperate or cutting their own funding to the program, CNN reports. But the "overarching authority," one Penn State law professor told the station, rests with the federal government.

According to the Pioneer Press, Minnesota state Rep. Pat Garofalo, Republican from Farmington, made a similar point on his Facebook and posted an abbreviated version on Twitter.

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