Governor Calls For Obama Administration To Suspend Accepting Syrian Refugees
OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma - In wake of deadly terror attacks in Paris being linked to the Islamic State, the governor of Oklahoma is asking the president to suspend accepting Syrian refugees into the United States.
Governor Mary Fallin said, “The Obama administration needs to assure the public that the background checks they are doing are rigorous, and that American lives will not be endangered in the process…Until then, I call on the Obama administration to suspend any Syrian refugees into the United States.”
But, with the possibility a Syrian refugee may be among the attackers, another Oklahoma lawmaker wants the governor to suspend a Syrian refugee program in Oklahoma.
Representative John Bennett of Sallisaw said a New York Times article claims more than a dozen Syrian refugees have settled in Jenks, but that’s not the case.
Catholic Charities said in April they resettled three Syrian Refugees, ages 14, 44 and 50, with family members in Oklahoma.
Governor Mary Fallin said she’s not suspending anything but is asking the Obama administration to stop Syrian refugees from coming to the Unites States.
“Oklahomans have welcomed refugees escaping religious persecution for many years and will continue to do so,” she said.
Catholic Charities only helps resettle refugees after they've gone through extensive checks. This year, it has helped 278 refugees resettle in the Tulsa area - 95 percent of those refugees are from Burma.
"I'm pretty confident that everyone that comes to eastern Oklahoma is fleeing violence that has been committed by someone else and they are looking to start a new life and have that opportunity here," said Catholic Charities Executive Director, Deacon Kevin Sartorius.
Sartorius said he understands why people might be concerned about Syrian refugees, particularly if they are responsible for the attacks in France; but he believes it’s unlikely.
"Our government has a very stringent screening process," he explained.
The Department of Homeland Security runs the U.S. Refugee Admissions program.
It's a three-pronged system where, before a refugee is allowed into the United States they must undergo an extensive background check, an in-person interview, and a full medical exam; a process that can take two to ten years.
Sartorius said, "After the tragic events that happened in 2001, the government took very seriously the need to screen all the refugees that would come to this country."
The State Department said some other countries will sometimes waive in-person interviews and do fewer security checks, but he said that doesn’t happen in America.
Oklahoma is a reunification site, which means the refugees who come here must have family members they can live with and will help them find a job.