AUSTIN (KXAN) — Twenty-eight governors announced their intention to keep Syrian refugees out of their states. This afternoon, those governors are getting a call from the White House. Several top administration officials will explain their screening measures for incoming refugees and address concerns from the governors.
Governor Greg Abbott is issuing more orders for state officials over its refugee program. He ordered law enforcement leaders to ensure refugees already in Texas don’t “pose a risk to public safety.”
Today, the governor appointed a refugee coordinator. The first order of business is to oversee the state health department as it sends its policy changes to federal officials.
Right now, President Obama is in the Philippines. He will not be on the call. He has said the U.S. will continue accepting refugees from Syria.
From D.C. to the state capitol, our local Texas representatives are making this issue a priority, but they are also getting criticism.
Rep. Tony Dale says we issue more than 200,000 driver licenses to people who are not U.S. citizens but can legally stay. He thinks they should look different and come with restrictions preventing things like getting on a plane, receiving benefits, getting a job or buying a gun. With a limited stay driver’s license, someone can legally purchase weapons.
“It doesn’t take a lot of people to wreak havoc here and we need to take the measures to protect American people first. The Boston bombers for example were both in the United States for refugee status,” said Rep. Tony Dale, Republican of Cedar Park.
He also worries about a terrorist finding a job at an airport. Rep. Dale’s bill did not pass committee this past session. He thinks the recent Paris attacks should convince leaders to study it during the interim.
In the past two years, Texas issued more than 470,000 driver’s licenses to non-citizens.
More than a quarter of those licenses went to people from Mexico. The next largest number went to people from India. China was third on the list of non-citizens receiving Texas licenses. People from Syria received 757 of those licenses.
“They don’t have the proper intelligence on the ground, they don’t have the proper databases to vet them. In other words, they don’t know who these people are,” said Central Texan and chair of the homeland security committee Michael McCaul. He filed a bill that would put the refugee authority in the hands of the US congress. Congressman Roger Williams agrees.
“We are at war, something the President will not admit too and we have to secure America first,” said Rep. Williams.
“When I hear stuff like that, I feel like they’re playing directly into ISIS’s hands, by reacting to fear and playing up on fear,” said Joe Deshotel from the Travis County Democrats. He says we shouldn’t be too hasty to change laws because of the refugees.
“Well it certainly compromises our values. That we are not a country that accepts immigrants,” said Deshotel.
He says this is eerily reminiscent of language used right after 9/11.