FAIRFAX, Va. -- Virginia will remain open to Syrian refugees fleeing their war-torn country, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced Monday night. The governor's stance was made public after some Virginia lawmakers urged McAuliffe to refuse entry to Syrian refugees following Friday's terror attack in Paris.
"The Governor and his public safety team are in constant communication with federal authorities about all refugee resettlements, including those involving refugees from Syria. Every refugee who is settled in the U.S. undergoes intensive security screening," a statement from the governor's office read. "Nothing is more important to the Governor and his team than keeping Virginians safe."
Delegates urge governor to refuse refugees
In a letter to the governor, four Virginia delegates called on McAuliffe to refuse Syrian refugee resettlements in Virginia, for a two year period, in wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. Virginia House of Delegates Majority Caucus Chairman Tim Hugo (R), Deputy Majority Leader Todd Gilbert (R), Delegate Greg Habeeb (R), and Delegate Manoli Loupassi (R) said they planned to officially introduce the legislation in the 2016 General Assembly session.
The legislation will be aimed at prohibiting state agencies from assisting in the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Virginia for the next two years.
"This legislation is being proposed in response to recent terrorist attacks in France, as we have seen radicals use the refugee crisis as a means to enter other countries," said Delegate Hugo. "Before we can allow further resettlement in Virginia, we must have full confidence in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its procedures. Virginia is a welcoming state, but our first priority is the safety of our citizens."
Since the terrorist attacks in Paris, the governors of at least 24 states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, and Massachusetts, have announced they will not accept Syrian refugees. Only 1,500 Syrian refugees have been accepted into the United States since 2011, but the Obama administration announced in September that 10,000 Syrians will be allowed entry next year. Syrians are now the world’s largest refugee population, according to the United Nations,
More than 250,000 people have died since the violence broke out in Syria in 2011, CNN reported, and at least 11 million people in the country of 22 million have fled their homes.
"I want to be absolutely certain that the people we are bringing here are legitimately not placed here by someone who would like to do severe harm," Virginia Delegate Manoli Loupassi said.
Virginia Delegate Greg Habeeb added he would like McAuliffe to urge President Obama to cease the resettlement of Syrian refugees into the United States for the time being.
"It is important to recognize that many of these refugees are fleeing atrocities very similar to those that were on display recently in Paris. However, our first and foremost responsibility is to the citizens of Virginia," Delegate Habeeb said. "It is imperative that Governor McAuliffe stand up for the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia and call on President Obama to cease the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States unless and until we can be assured that they pose no security risk. Second, the Governor should immediately cut off all funding currently being used to resettle Syrian refugees in Virginia.”