- Associated Press - Monday, November 16, 2015

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - While some governors around the country have raised concerns about accepting Syrian refugees following last week’s attacks in Paris, a spokeswoman for Alaska Gov. Bill Walker said Monday that he’s focused on the state’s budget woes.

Walker spokeswoman Katie Marquette said by email that Walker has been focused on solving the state’s $3.5 billion deficit and hasn’t given consideration to trying to stop Syrian refugees from settling in Alaska.

Governors in many states are responding to heightened concerns that terrorists might use the refugees as cover to sneak across borders.

Some have threatened to stop accepting Syrian refugees, though Lavinia Limon, president and CEO of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigration, said that under the Refugee Act of 1980 governors cannot legally block refugees from being resettled in their communities.

According to the U.S. State Department’s Refugee Processing Center, no Syrian refugees have arrived in Alaska this year.

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, said in a Facebook post that the State Department and U.S. Department of Homeland Security must make sure there’s a robust verification system for all asylum seekers to ensure that potential terrorists are not being allowed into the United States.

Right now, “we simply cannot verify the identity of all Syrian refugees,” he said.

“We are a compassionate people, but we cannot afford to put our national security at risk,” Sullivan’s post said. Sullivan served as an assistant secretary of state during President George W. Bush’s administration.

In a statement, Catholic Social Services-Alaska, which helps to resettle refugees, said welcoming people fleeing persecution is an American tradition and part of the values that have defined this country.

“We support steps taken by the U.S. government to ensure a secure, effective, just and humanitarian rescue of refugees and asylees,” the statement says. “Refugees undergo thorough and rigorous security screenings prior to arriving to the United States. Asylum seekers also undergo rigorous background checks.”

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