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Legislators call on Nixon to block Syrian refugees in Missouri

St. James Leader Journal

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Washington, DC, November 18, 2015 | By Staff and Wire Reports | comments

Missouri's Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon says screening refugees is the federal government's job and is calling for safeguards following deadly terror attacks in Paris.

Nixon in a Monday statement didn't say he'd block Syrian refugees from settling in Missouri.

Republican gubernatorial candidates suburban St. Louis businessman John Brunner, former Navy SEAL officer Eric Greitens, former state House speaker and U.S. attorney Catherine Hanaway and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder want Nixon to do so. They cited safety concerns.

Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster, who has said he'll run for governor, says Missouri should pause relocations. Koster said in a statement, “I believe it is prudent to pause the admittance of refugees from Syria to allow the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and our other national security agencies to re-evaluate the screening processes to ensure we are preventing terrorists from entering our country.”

About 20 Republican state senators, including Republican Sen. Dan Brown, of Rolla, and dozens of state representatives also as of Tuesday have asked Nixon not to cooperate with relocation efforts.

State Rep. Jason Chipman, R-St. James, Tuesday evening expressed his disapproval of accepting Syrian refugees into Missouri and submitted a letter to Nixon, stating such.

In a statement, Chipman said, “I, along with many of my colleagues, also co-signed a letter from House Speaker Todd Richardson to Governor Nixon urging him to join a bipartisan group of 27 governors who had opted not to participate in the refugee resettlement efforts at this time.”

In the letter addressed to Chipman stated, “Prudence dictates that caution must be foremost on our minds. Rushing into an endeavor such as this immensely increases the opportunity for bad actors to gain a foothold they would not otherwise get.” Chipman said the federal government's inability to guarantee the vetting process is reason enough to deny the refugees entry to Missouri. “Our embassy in Damascus has been closed for almost four years. Our intelligence organizations have failed to fulfill their primary mission in the region.,” Chipman stated. “We have no idea who these refugees are or if their intentions are noble.”

Chipman said he is “all for voluntary efforts we may take as a state to help send humanitarian aid to those in need.” The state representative for the 120th Missouri House District, said he also is in favor of providing support to get refugees back to their homes.

“Please consider, first and foremost, the safety and security of the people for whom you swore your oath,” Chipman stated. 

U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, of Missouri’s 8th Congressional District, along with five other Missouri Congress members, also sent a letter to Nixon urging him to halt plans to bring Syrian refugees to Missouri.

“It’s clear with the recent tragic events that refugee screening has been insufficient,” said Smith. “We need to take a step back and do what is necessary to keep America and Missouri safe.”

The congressional letter signed by Smith as well as U.S. Reps. Blaine Luektemeyer, Ann Wagner, Billy Long, Vicky Hartzler and Sam Graves, highlights the report that “at least one of the terrorists had a Syrian passport and entered Europe with the waves of migrants fleeing the Syria Civil War.”

The letter says the “president’s plan to increase the number of Syrian refugees admitted to the United States poses a genuine threat to the American people.”

Smith also has sponsored H.R. 3999, the American SAFE Act, to require the U.S. Department of Homeland Security verify that refugees prove that they are not a threat to national security before they can settle in the U.S. Smith also sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to immediately halt admissions of refugees from Syria and Iraq into the U.S. According to a federal database 29 Syrian refugees settled in Missouri so far this year. The executive director of the Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates group says the state should welcome refugees fleeing violence. Immigration experts say under the Refugee Act of 1980 governors cannot legally block refugees.

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