Gov. Butch Otter today sent a letter to President Obama calling for a halt to the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program, until “the vetting process for all foreigners crossing our borders can be fully reviewed.” In a statement, Otter said, “It makes no sense under the best of circumstances for the United States to allow people into our country who have the avowed desire to harm our communities, our institutions and our people. The savage and senseless ISIS-driven attacks in Paris illustrate the essential inhumanity of terrorism and make it clearer than ever that we must make protecting our homeland from this threat our primary focus.”
Otter also said he’ll “use any legal means available to me to protect the citizens I serve.” His statement and letter came after more than a dozen other governors, most of them Republicans, declared that they wanted to close their states to Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris attacks; refugee resettlement authorities immediately responded that governors have no authority to do that.
Lucy Carrigan, spokeswoman for the International Rescue Committee, told the Washington Post, “Governors and state officials do not have the capability to prevent a refugee who is here and admitted lawfully to the U.S. from residing in their state. It is not something they can do. There is a close collaboration with governors and mayors and community leaders about the capacity of the area for refugees and where they can go, but once they have legal status, you cannot impede their transit between different states.”
You can read Otter’s full letter to Obama here. Otter said he plans to discuss the issue with his colleagues when he travels tomorrow to a Republican Governors Association meeting in Las Vegas. “While I understand that immigration and refugee resettlement are authorized under federal law, I am duty-bound to do whatever I can to protect the people of Idaho from harm,” Otter wrote. “Instead of Congress rubber-stamping this program each year, we ask that you and Congress work with states and governors to thoroughly review this process and how states are affected.”
Otter also called on Obama to give states an option to “opt out” of the refugee resettlement program.