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Syrian Refugees in NC: Can State Refuse Refuge?

Many governors have opposed settling Syrian refugees. Credit: Mstyslav Charnov/Wikimedia Commons
Many governors have opposed settling Syrian refugees. Credit: Mstyslav Charnov/Wikimedia Commons
November 18, 2015

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - North Carolina is one of at least 27 states whose governors have opposed settling Syrian refugees, in light of the recent attacks in Paris.

Underlying their concerns is the fact one of the attackers entered France by posing as a Syrian refugee. Legal experts assert there is legal precedent that the federal government sets immigration and refugee policy, and states cannot refuse a specific group of people.

Ellen Dubin, executive director of the Carolina Refugee Resettlement Agency, says it's important to understand the safeguards that are in place as refugees arrive to the state.

"I understand that people are frightened," she says. "But they just don't understand the process and how long it takes and how complete it is."

Dubin and others acknowledge that states can deny their resources to the federal government and potentially make the resettlement of refugees more difficult.

So far, 1,500 Syrian refugees have been accepted into the United States since 2011, but the Obama administration announced in September the country would accept 10,000 next year.

Since 1996, the Carolina Refugee Resettlement Agency has settled more than 3,000 refugees from 40 countries into the Charlotte area. Dubin says the refugees they encounter value their newfound safety and freedom.

"Refugees are contributing members of society," she says. "They buy houses, they buy cars, they buy furniture. They do work, because they want a better life for their families."

Gov. Pat McCrory appeared in an interview on CNN on Tuesday and would not answer when asked whether he believed Syrian refugees already in the Tar Heel State are a threat.

Last night, he and other governors are believed to have had a conference call with the White House to discuss better ways to open up lines of communication regarding refugees and how they can safely be admitted.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC