- Associated Press - Monday, November 16, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Gov. Scott Walker said Monday that Wisconsin won’t accept any new Syrian refugees because doing so poses a security threat in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks.

The strong words come even though it’s unclear whether governors like Walker have that power, and the fact that almost no Syrians have come to Wisconsin in recent years.

Walker joined with other governors across the country and Wisconsin Republicans in calling for a halt in President Barack Obama’s plan to have the U.S. accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Millions of Syrians have fled to neighboring Middle Eastern countries and Europe. Obama administration officials said plans to relocate Syrian refugees in the U.S. would continue despite the attacks in Paris.

Authorities said a Syrian passport was found near one of the attackers, and the Paris prosecutors’ office said fingerprints from the attacker match those of someone who passed through Greece in October.

“With this in mind, I am calling upon the president to immediately suspend the program pending a full review of its security and acceptance procedures,” Walker said in a statement. “The State of Wisconsin will not accept new Syrian refugees.”

Only two Syrian refugees have resettled in Wisconsin since the start of the Syrian civil war in March 2011, according to the Refugee Processing Center, which is run by the U.S. State Department. Nationwide, only 2,184 Syrians have arrived in the U.S. since that time.

It’s not clear whether states can legally stop refugees from relocating. Governors are prohibited under the Refugee Act of 1980 from blocking refugees from settling in their communities, said Lavinia Limon, president and CEO of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigration.

Walker’s spokeswoman Laurel Patrick, when asked what power Walker had to reject refugees and stop those who want to come to Wisconsin, did not directly answer the question.

“Wisconsin will not accept new Syrian refugees through the federal refugee resettlement program and we are determining next steps,” she said.

Walker, when he was running for president, had said in September that no more Syrian refugees should be accepted in the U.S.

“There may be those who will try to take advantage of the generosity of our country and the ability to move freely within our borders through this federal resettlement program, and we must ensure we are doing all we can to safeguard the security of Americans,” Walker said Monday.

Other Wisconsin politicians also weighed in Monday.

U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, didn’t rule out a partial government shutdown in the policy fight in Congress over the Syrian refugee resettlement program.

“We’re looking at all of our options about how do we make sure that something like this doesn’t happen coming here to us with refugees,” Ryan told conservative talk show host Bill Bennett.

U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, a Republican from Wisconsin, called on Obama to halt the Syrian refugee program.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin said she wanted Obama’s administration to more clearly explain how the refugees will be vetted for any potential security concerns, but did not call for them not to come to Wisconsin.

And Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, who is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said to the extent Syrian refugees are allowed in the U.S. the priority should be given to women and children and relatives of Syrians who are American citizens.

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and 49 other Republicans sent a letter to the Obama administration asking that no Syrian refugees should be allowed in the state until security measures are improved. And Democratic Assembly Leader Peter Barca said there should be “extreme caution” in accepting new Syrian refugees.

“We have to triple check if we are going to accept any refugees,” Barca said.

But Democratic Rep. Mandela Barnes, of Milwaukee, said the refugees should be allowed in.

“We should be looking for a constructive way to support those fleeing danger instead of closing the door on them,” Barnes said in a message on Twitter.

The Assembly began its session Monday with a playing of both the French and U.S. national anthems. Republicans and Democrats held hands silently as a recording of France’s national anthem played in the chamber before they joined together in singing “The Star Spangled Banner.”


Associated Press writer Todd Richmond contributed to this report.


Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP. His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/scott-bauer .

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