Gov. Jay Inslee Monday morning vowed to keep Washington open to receiving Syrian refugees, even as more than 20 governors throughout the United States announced plans to keep them out of their states following deadly attacks on civilians in Paris.
In a statement released Monday morning, Inslee referenced Washington’s long history of accepting refugees.
“Washington will continue to be a state that welcomes those seeking refuge from persecution, regardless of where they come from or the religion they practice. We have been and will continue to be a state that embraces compassion and eschews fear mongering, as evidenced so well by Republican Gov. Dan Evans’ welcoming of Vietnamese refugees here in the 1970s.
“It’s important to note that governors do not decide whether refugees come to their states. Those decisions are made by the federal government, and the U.S. State Department has a robust system in place to evaluate and place families who seek refugee status.
“That makes these anti-refugee comments by governors even more troublesome and of little value except to divide people and foment intolerance.”
Governors of least 20 states, including Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Michigan, Texas and Florida, have announced plans to resist President Barack Obama’s plans to resettle to at least 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year in response to the refugee crisis, according to USA Today.
Millions of people are fleeing Syria to escape ISIS and the civil war there, escaping to Turkey, Greece and other European countries. Earlier this year, a grassroots group of Seattleites looked at ways to bring some refugees to Washington state.
For example, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement posted to his official Facebook page that the state would immediately suspend efforts to allow those fleeing Syria to settle in that state. Michigan already has accepted about 200 Syrian refugees in the past year.
“Michigan is a welcoming state and we are proud of our rich history of immigration. But our first priority is protecting the safety of our residents,” Snyder said, calling for a “complete review” of the Department of Homeland Security’s procedures for clearing refugees.
“It’s also important to remember that these attacks are the efforts of extremists and do not reflect the peaceful ways of people of Middle Eastern descent here and around the world,” Snyder’s statement added.
A Syrian passport, which shows evidence of being forged, was found on the body of one of the bombers, according to French news station France24. According to the BBC, German justice minister Heiko Maas warned that the passport could have been planted by the plotters as a false trail.
Responses to governors’ reactions
The Council on American Islamic Relations released a statement criticizing the rejection of refugees.
“Defeating ISIS involves projecting American ideals to the world. This un-American rejection of refugees, who will face significant security checks prior to entry, sends entirely the wrong message. Governors who reject those fleeing war and persecution abandon our ideals and instead project our fears to the world.”
Grassroots group Washington Rescue Committee for Syrian Refugees also criticized the governors’ calling for rejection of refugees, in a Facebook post that also called for refugees from anywhere to come forward to share their stories.
Washington state Rep. Jay Rodne (R-Snoqualmie) criticized Inslee on his Facebook page.
“This utterly irresponsible. Governor Inslee should be worrying about protecting the residents of Washington state rather than following lockstep Obama’ s policy of allowing unvetted Syrian migrants in. We know that ISIS is infiltrating the ranks of these migrants. My House colleagues and I are drafting a response and you can be sure we will resist this foolish and dangerous policy.”
Seattle resident Danny Tayara, whose father is from Syria and who has family that lives there, said it was hurtful and racist to hear so many top government officials take steps to reject Syrian immigrants — and to see so many people agree with those officials. Tayara says he got into an argument with a cousin who supported Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s refusal to accept refugees from Syria.
“I’m trying to explain, my family is Syrian; the fact that you think that Syrians are dangerous, and that Syrians are terrorists, and by that assumption you think I’m a terrorist, and that my dad is a terrorist and so is my grandfather, and everyone related to us,” Tayara said, recounting the Facebook conversation.
“I don’t often feel like I have the power to explain racism, because I’m a white-appearing person, but when I saw this, I felt the right to say something,” Tayara added. “This is about human rights, it’s about equality, and it is about race.”
This post has been updated.