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Branstad's Policy Change on Syrian Refugees Sparks Controversy

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015   

DES MOINES, Iowa - This week, Iowa has become the 17th state to halt integration of Syrian refugees, following an order by Gov. Terry Branstad.

Jeremy Rosen, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, says he was extremely disappointed by the governor's decision.

"We believe that Iowans are caring and welcoming people who want to take in refugees, and we don't think the governor's decision reflects what most Iowans are really thinking about this issue," he says.

Rosen says it isn't the role of a state governor to make immigration decisions, which he feels are more properly placed in the hands of federal officials.

In the 1970s, then-Governor Robert Ray's efforts to welcome Southeast Asian refugees in Iowa were met with local support. Rosen says Branstad's action flies in the face of that precedent.

"It's extremely unfortunate," he says. "The state has a wonderful history of welcoming and accepting refugees who are fleeing from terrorism, or from other problems that have caused them to need to leave their home countries, and have made it impossible for them to go back to those countries."

In a morning news conference, Branstad said he had no plans to halt movement of the refugees into Iowa, but by the end of the day, he had shifted course. Rosen says the move immediately raises legal questions.

"It's important to note the governor doesn't have any legal authority to make a decision, in terms of being able to say whether or not refugees can come to our state," says Rosen. "But certainly a statement of concern like this made by the governor sends just an awful tone, and the citizens of Iowa are not happy about that."


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