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Feds Warns States Refusing Syrian Refugees is Illegal

  • VOA News

Howard Brown, of North Kingstown, R.I., center, displays a placard during a rally at the statehouse in Providence, R.I., held to demonstrate against allowing Syrian refugees to enter Rhode Island, Nov. 19, 2015.

Howard Brown, of North Kingstown, R.I., center, displays a placard during a rally at the statehouse in Providence, R.I., held to demonstrate against allowing Syrian refugees to enter Rhode Island, Nov. 19, 2015.

The U.S. federal government is warning state officials they do not have the legal authority to refuse to accept refugees from Syria.

The notification came in a letter dated Wednesday from the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (OPR) to state resettlement agencies.

Program chief Robert Carey said that states may not deny OPR-funded benefits and services based on a refugee's country of origin or religious affiliation.

Any state that refuses to comply would be in violation of the law and "could be subject to enforcement action," Carey warned in the letter, originally published in the Houston Chronicle.

More than two dozen mostly Republican governors have vowed to block federal attempts to resettle Syrian refugees in their states, arguing they pose an unacceptable security risk.

FILE - Syrian Turkmen are seen at a make-shift refugee camp some kilometers away from the Syria-Turkey border, Apr. 23, 2013.

FILE - Syrian Turkmen are seen at a make-shift refugee camp some kilometers away from the Syria-Turkey border, Apr. 23, 2013.

Fears were heightened after the discovery that at least one of the militants in the recent deadly Paris attacks had slipped into Europe in the wave of Syrian refugees.

President Barack Obama, a member of the Democratic Party, plans to accept 10,000 refugees from Syria over the next year.

That is a significant increase from the roughly 2,000 Syrian refugees the U.S. has taken in since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, but represents only a tiny fraction of the millions who have fled the war-torn country.

Last week, the Republican-led House of Representatives passed a bill that increases the restrictions on refugees from Iraq and Syria. The bill's future is uncertain in the Senate. Obama has vowed to veto it.

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