Gov. Haslam, Tenn. delegation urged to ‘suspend’ Syrian immigration

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – In the face of Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris, top Tennessee lawmakers say their constituents are urging them to something about continued “Syrian refugee immigration” in Tennessee, and they are doing something with a flurry of letters, statements, and recommendations.

In the last year, 1,908 Syrians relocated to the United States. According to the Refugee Processing Center, 35 settled in Tennessee and 92 in Kentucky from Nov. 2014 to Nov. 2015. Click here to view the reports. 

The Tennessee Senate Speaker Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey and Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, both Republicans,  also released a drafted letter to News 2 in which they seek an immediate moratorium on refugees entering the United States, specifically Tennessee. Click here to read the full document.

At this time, Governor Bill Haslam has not issued a statement on the matter.

Earlier on Monday, a letter created by Maury County representative Sheila Butt (R-TN) asked her colleagues to request the governor suspend efforts to settle any Syrian Refugees until the U.S. Department of Homeland Security completes a full review of security clearances and procedures.Click here to read the full letter to Governor Haslam.

Rep. Jeremy Durham (R-TN), of Williamson County, went a step further.

“We must refuse new Syrian refugees from entering our state and we cannot wait around to act.  My hope is that the Governor will agree but we must call a special session if he doesn’t,” he said.

Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) also posted a lengthy statement on her Facebook page. In it she said that although she believes it is critical the United States “make efforts to aid those who are persecuted in the Middle East,” the security of the American people must be the country’s first priority.

Rep. Black has cosponsored Congressman Brian Babin’s (R-TX) Resettlement Accountability National Security Act, which places an immediate moratorium on all refugee resettlement programs until the Government Accountability Office completes a thorough study outlining the true costs of these programs to federal, state and local governments.

“The security of American citizens must be our top priority. We now have reports that one, and possibly more, of the Paris attackers posed as Syrian refugees before entering Europe. As a result, we must immediately suspend similar resettlement efforts in the U.S. I have repeatedly warned that it is impossible to vet Syrian refugees to determine if they have ties to ISIS. Any efforts to continue moving forward with the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the U.S. would be dangerously irresponsible,” said Congressman Marsha Blackburn.

Much of the concern centers on reports that at least one suspect involved in the French attacks had a Syrian passport which was found on his body.

One counterview comes from Tim Patterson, executive director of World Relief Nashville.

Patterson said his group has settled “about a third” of the 35 refugees from Syria over the past year in Tennessee.

“I can confirm that we have resettled only 22 Syrian refugees in Nashville over the past year. Only about 2,000 Syrians have been resettled by all agencies throughout the U.S. The reason they are coming in such low numbers is that the application and vetting process for refugees from Syria, (and for all refugees from around the world), is very extensive and can take several years. If someone with evil intent wanted to come to the U.S., coming as a refugee would not be the way to do it. World Relief has resettled well over 200,000 refugee’s nation-wide (from many different countries) since 1978. None have been terrorists. The FBI, State Department, national intelligence agencies, and Department of Homeland Security are all involved in a process that takes at least two years with significant clearance hurdles.”

On Sunday evening, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley released a statement saying he will not permit Syrian refugees to relocate to his state. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a letter to President Obama that Texas will not take in any new Syrian refugees.Copyright 2015 WKRN. All rights reserved.

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