Advocates Disappointed as Gov. Deal Objects to Syrian Refugees; Food Stamp Denials Draw Federal Attention
(APN) ATLANTA — Thirty-one U.S. governors are refusing to cooperate in resettlement programs for Syrian refugees, most citing the coordinated attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015, as a pretext for security concerns around this refugee population.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal issued an executive order on November 16, 2015 instructing “all agencies of the State of Georgia halt any involvement in accepting refugees from Syria for resettlement…”
Georgia joins thirty other states–all but one of them headed by Republican governors–in calling on their state agencies to cease support for refugee relocation.
There have been 1,925 Syrians relocated to the U.S. this year, and a total of 2,283 since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.
Gov. Deal called on Georgia Emergency Management Agency and Homeland Security “to confirm the backgrounds of the 59 Syrian refugees recently resettled to ensure they do not pose a security threat to our citizens.”
The Georgia GOP immediately backed Governor Deal, issuing a press release the same day as Deal’s executive order.
“In light of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday and the continued threats to public safety created by our porous borders, I applaud the efforts of Governor Deal to keep Georgians safe by refusing to take in Syrian refugees,” John Padgett, Georgia Republican Party Chairman, said in a press release.
Citing a desire to “ensure the safety of all Georgians and Americans,” Deal also sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to place a moratorium on Syrian refugees entering this country and to review the screening process.
In an interview with Atlanta Progressive News, J.D. McCrary, Executive Director of The International Rescue Committee in Atlanta, expressed disappointment and concern over the Governor’s executive order, citing the “seeming violation of civil rights… against state residents based on their country of origin.”
Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry has been quite vocal in opposition to these plans as well, posting on Facebook about the lengthy process refugees must go through in order to gain entry into their host nation.
Terry described the interviews with Department of Homeland Security (DHS), interagency checks conducted by National Counterterrorism Center, and fingerprint screenings completed through the Federal Bureau of Investigation and DHS that all refugees must go through.
“In addition to the many biometric and biographic checks conducted, DHS-USCIS [United States Citizenship and Immigration Service] has instituted additional review of Syrian refugee applications. Before being scheduled for interview by a DHS-USCIS officer (while the refugee is still abroad), Syrian cases are reviewed at DHS-USCIS headquarters,” Terry shared on Facebook.
While state governments do not have the authority to deny admittance, states do fund and run many programs refugees rely on during the re-settlement process.
Bobby Cagle, director of the George Division of Family and Children Services, recently instructed the Georgia Department of Human Services not to process applications from Syrian families for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps).
Cagle was reprimanded by the federal government, told that it is a violation of Civil Rights to discriminate based on national origin, in a letter from Jessica Shahin, the Associate Administrator of SNAP, dated November 25, 2015.
Cagle and DHS do not appear to have complied yet with the letters demand to “rescind the memorandum and cease this practice immediately.”
It is unclear what additional steps the federal government will take in order to force States to comply with federal law, particularly in light of Obama’s call for 10,00 additional Syrian refugees to be resettled in the United States.
“There has been an outpouring of disappointment to the Governor’s decision to basically re-victimize those who are fleeing persecution and violence in the first place,” McCrary said.