Missouri elected officials continue to push for Syrian refugees to be kept out of Missouri, after terrorist attacks killed 129 and injured hundreds more in Paris, France last week. The discovery of a passport from a Syrian refugee near the body of a dead suicide bomber stoked fears that the terrorists who attacked Paris infiltrated the thousands of refugees coming into Europe.
86 of Missouri’s 118 House Republicans signed a letter from House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) to Governor Jay Nixon (D) critical of Nixon’s statement released Monday:
“The safety of Missourians is my highest priority, and the terrorists who were involved in planning and perpetrating the attacks in Paris must be caught and brought to justice. The screening process for refugees is the responsibility of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and I call on our federal partners to implement the strongest possible safeguards to protect our state and nation.”
Richardson said the statement lacks, “specificity regarding Missouri’s role, or lack thereof, in assisting in the resettlement of Syrian refugees in our state.” He said the statement did note “the obvious – that it is ultimately the responsibility of the federal government to screen refugees,” but failed to take any position on the resettlement of those refugees in Missouri.
Richardson notes the bipartisan group of, at the time, 27 governors who say they will not participate in resettlement efforts and have asked the Department of State to suspend resettlement in their states until adequate security measures are put in place, and calls on Nixon to take the same action.
Richardson’s letter continues, “I remain deeply concerned for the countless individuals fleeing war and religious oppression in the Middle East. As a nation that was created by individuals fleeing religious persecution, and as a country that owes much to the contributions of a diverse immigrant population, it is important that we continue to serve as a beacon of hope and compassion to those in need around the world. Throughout its history, America has provided refuge to the tired, the poor and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, and it is imperative that our doors remain open to those who come to our nation with good intent, while at the same time turning away the terrorists who would do us harm.
“Serious concerns have been raised about our immigration system and the capability of the federal government to adequately screen these individuals. The people of Missouri deserve to know with perfect clarity where you stand on this important issue. Furthermore, they deserve to know what involvement the state has had, or plans to have going forward, to assist in these resettlement efforts. Most importantly, the people of Missouri deserve to know the steps you are taking to ensure their safety.”
House Republicans join 20 Missouri Republican state senators who have also urged Nixon to refuse admittance into Missouri for Syrian refugees. Three of Missouri’s GOP candidates for governor – Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder, former U.S. Attorney and Missouri House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, and businessman John Brunner – have also called for a “pause” in admitting refugees while screening practices are reviewed. Another GOP candidate, Senator Bob Dixon, wants the state to oversee the work of federal screeners.
The lone Democrat running for governor, Attorney General Chris Koster, has also called for admittance of refugees to be paused.
What Nixon can actually do to stop refugees from coming in to Missouri even temporarily, though, is not clear. The State Department says the refugee program is administered under federal law, and refugees are protected by the Constitution and federal law.