DETROIT (AP) — Michigan’s Republican governor, who has bucked many party leaders by welcoming Syrian refugees, is putting the efforts on hold following the deadly attacks in Paris.
Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement Sunday that the state is postponing efforts to accept refugees until federal officials fully review security clearances and procedures. He added that Michigan is “proud of our rich history of immigration” but that Michigan’s “first priority is protecting the safety of our residents.”
“There will be difficult days ahead for the people of France and they remain in our thoughts and prayers,” he said. “It’s also important to remember that these attacks are the efforts of extremists and do not reflect the peaceful ways of people of Middle Eastern descent here and around the world.”
Snyder spokesman Dave Murray said the governor wasn’t available for further comment.
Officials say Friday’s gun and bomb attacks killed more than 120 people. One of the attackers had a Syrian passport, but it wasn’t clear whether the passport was fake or real.
Several GOP presidential candidates have criticized the Obama administration’s plans to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees and urge greater scrutiny. Donald Trump, appearing Saturday in Beaumont, Texas, said the U.S. should be more aggressive against the Islamic State and called the United States “insane” to accept any refugees from Syria in the wake of the Paris attacks.
Michigan Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland, issued a statement late Saturday urging Snyder to “reverse his call to relocate Syrian refugees in the state.” He said the state “should not rush to offer an open door to the high-risk importation of individuals from a known hotbed of Islamic extremism.”
Snyder had welcomed the refugees for humanitarian reasons as well as to address the state’s job and population loss. Snyder, who said that refugees who have cleared security hurdles have something to offer economically and culturally, had been talking with federal officials about what the state can do about accepting more people.
No decisions are final on numbers or locations for refugees, but the Detroit area stands out for its large and well-established Arab-American population.
Snyder’s decision to halt the resettlement concerns Michael Mitchell, a vice president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, one of nine national organizations resettling refugees for the U.S. government. He said prospective refugees go through a 13-step process with the government to ensure security before they are admitted.
“It’s vital to keep in mind those who are refugees are fleeing persecution – the very persecution that these attackers just committed on innocents in Paris,” Mitchell said. “The doors being open to new refugees are going to mean companies getting employees, businesses starting. In the end, that is the best way to respond to violence overseas by demonstrating prosperity at home.”
Reducing or cutting admissions because of fear, Mitchell added, “is only feeding into what the attackers want.”