Politics

New Bill Would Allow States to Reject Refugees

Cruz, Poe fight to 'reinforce the authority' of governors to 'keep their citizens safe'

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) introduced a joint Senate-House bill Tuesday that would allow states to reject refugee resettlement if the federal government “has not provided adequate assurances that the refugee does not present a security risk.”

The bill, called the State Refugee Security Act of 2017 (H.R. 604), would require the federal government to notify a state of its intention to resettle a refugee there 21 days before the actual move. But if the federal government fails to provide those “adequate reassurances” to the state in question, the bill would allow state governors to refuse the migrant entry.

“The Obama administration’s open door policy has totally disregarded the wishes of state governors who have legitimate security concerns about letting unvetted refugees in their states.”

“The first obligation of the president is to keep this country safe as commander-in-chief,” Cruz said in the joint press release. “I am encouraged that, unlike the previous administration, one of President [Donald] Trump’s top priorities is to defeat radical Islamic terrorism. To augment the efforts of the new administration, this legislation I have introduced will reinforce the authority of the states and governors to keep their citizens safe.”

Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump emphasized the severe security risk that former President Barack Obama’s vigorous push to resettle thousands of refugees posed to the U.S. On the campaign trail, Trump called for “extreme vetting” to root out refugees with ties or sympathies to radical Islamic terrorism.

“We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth,” Trump promised in his inaugural address Friday.

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The Cruz-Poe legislation aims to bulk up the authority of states to refuse entry to questionably vetted migrants as the Trump administration begins to develop a system of “extreme vetting.”

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“Congress must take action to support states that refuse to participate in the refugee resettlement program because of serious security concerns,” Poe said in the joint statement. “The Obama administration’s open door policy has totally disregarded the wishes of state governors who have legitimate security concerns about letting unvetted refugees in their states.”

The Texas Republicans sought to ensure that the individual states always have the opportunity to “opt out if the security of the program is not guaranteed,” even if Trump implements screening reforms.

“Until the federal government can conduct thorough security screenings and confirm that there are no security risks, Congress should empower states to be able to protect their citizens by refusing to participate in this program,” Poe said.

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