By Scott Malone
Nov 18 – A family of Syrian refugees has settled in Connecticut after the Republican governor of Indiana, where the trio had been headed, said he did not want new refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war to enter his state, officials said on Wednesday.
The family included a father, a mother and their five-year-old son who fled the Syrian city of Homs early in the fighting and had been living as refugees in Jordan for the past four years, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, told reporters.
More than 25 U.S. governors, mostly Republicans, publicly called on the Obama administration this week to stop resettling Syrian refugees in their states following last Friday’s attacks in Paris that killed 129 people.
Malloy said he had met with the family in New Haven, where they have settled. He declined to name them out of concern for their safety in the midst of an intense U.S. debate about accepting Syrian refugees.
“I assured them that not only was I welcoming them but I was proud that they were coming to the United States and coming to Connecticut,” Malloy said. “I told them that people in the United States are generous and good people but sometimes things happen elsewhere that cause people to forget about their generosity.”
Indiana Governor Mike Pence on Monday said agencies in his state would stop resettling Syrian refugees, citing concerns about safety and adding, “My first responsibility is to ensure the safety and security of all Hoosiers,” referring to residents of his state.
A Pence spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
Despite calls by governors and congressional Republicans to stop the entry of Syrian refugees, the Obama administration has stood by its pledge to admit some 10,000 refugees from the fighting in Syria over the next year.
Refugee advocates note that candidates for resettlement go through extensive background checks taking up to two years before reaching the United States.
U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby on Wednesday confirmed that a refugee family that had been headed to Indiana was relocated to Connecticut, but did not specify the country from which the family came.
“The resettlement agency, which you know are non-governmental organizations, made a decision … to reroute them to Connecticut from Indiana because of concerns about their ability to live there in Indiana,” Kirby told reporters in Washington.
The United States admitted 1,682 Syrian refugees in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, up from 105 admitted the previous fiscal year. Legal experts have said governors do not appear to have legal authority to stop refugees from being settled in their states.
Republicans are not the only ones averse to accepting more Syrian refugees. New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, said she would be wary about allowing Syrian refugees into her state.
“In moments of trial and tribulation, some people will lead in the wrong direction,” Malloy said. “Hopefully some people will lead in the right direction and that’s what we’re trying to do in Connecticut.”
Fouad Faris, who came to United States as a visitor from Syria in December 2012 and was granted asylum as the fighting intensified, said people worried about Syrian refugees should understand they coming to escape violence.
“Nobody wants any blood and that’s why they’re leaving,” said Faris, 21, who is studying pre-medicine in Massachusetts. “You cannot generalize about these people.”