Fourteen members of the Washington State Senate Republican Caucus urged the governor to address state residents’ concerns about federal refugee screening practices amidst security concerns in a letter sent Wednesday.
“Washington should be a state that accepts refugees from war-torn areas of the world, but not at the expense of the safety of Washington residents,” said Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County. “The Governor should not rush to judgment considering the fact one of the Paris terrorists claimed to be a refugee from Syria. Washingtonians deserve a careful and thorough review of the process the federal government plans to use to vet Syrian refugees. We must not blindly trust the federal government.”
Following last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris, President Obama announced the United States would accept an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees in the coming months. Thirty governors responded that the President should pause to make sure the vetting process is solid and can guarantee ISIS will not slip terrorists into this country on the pretense they are refugees. Washington State Governor Jay Inslee on the other hand, immediately voiced support for accepting refugees into the state.
In the letter to the governor the senators urge a deliberative and cautious approach:
“We, like you, consider Washington State to be welcoming and gracious, especially to those who come here, legally, from war-torn regions. But not at the expense of the safety of the citizens of the state.
“Perhaps there was a day when the public had confidence in the federal government to effectively vet and prevent terrorists from entering this country. But no longer. Tough questions need to be asked. It is not enough for federal officials to talk of screening fingerprint and biometric information against law enforcement databases when this group of refugees is coming from a country without a functioning government and without any such database.”
Full text of the letter and signatories can be found below.
November 18, 2015
Governor Jay Inslee
200 Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington 98504
RE: Syrian Refugees
Dear Governor Inslee:
The world has been shocked by the depravity and violence of the recent terrorist massacre in the city of Paris. These monstrous acts horrified people of every civilized nation and every religion. Rightly so, this event has forced greater scrutiny of federal policy permitting access to this country by people from Syria. And yet, President Obama announced that 10,000 Syrian refugees will be admitted to the United States in the next few months with potentially hundreds of thousands more to follow. Most of those seeking refugee status in the United States deserve our compassion and help. But some may not. We know that at least one of the Paris murderers, and perhaps others, ostensibly from Syria, used the cover of refugee status to gain access to France. How many lives would have been saved if French officials had more carefully examined this terrorist’s background and detained him?
Vigilant governors of 30 states have sent letters to the President urging him to pause the resettlement of Syrian refugees in their states until a competent and reliable vetting process can be established to ensure that the citizens of their states will not be the next victims of terrorism.
According to recent media reports, and statements you have made, Washington State will receive many of those refugees. Other than conclusory assurances, we have not seen a detailed description of the vetting process the federal government says it intends to employ to prevent terrorists from entering the US. Until we learn of the steps the President is taking to guarantee none of the refugees is a would-be terrorist, we urge you to notify the federal government that Washington must pause before it will take Syrian refugees.
We, like you, consider Washington State to be welcoming and gracious, especially to those who come here, legally, from war-torn regions. But not at the expense of the safety of the citizens of the state.
Please, Governor Inslee, pause, and take the time to assure the people of this state that the federal government is carefully vetting all who enter this nation to ensure that the bloodshed of Paris will not happen in the concert halls and cafes of our cities and towns. Perhaps there was a day when the public had confidence in the federal government to effectively vet and prevent terrorists from entering this country. But no longer. Tough questions need to be asked. It is not enough for federal officials to talk of screening fingerprint and biometric information against law enforcement databases when this group of refugees is coming from a country without a functioning government and without any such database.
Winston Churchill once said, “I never worry about action but only inaction.” We ask that you do not simply acquiesce to a policy that in light of recent events in Paris may constitute a clear and present threat to the safety of our people.
Senator Steve O’Ban
Senator Jim Honeyford
Senator Curtis King
Senator Judy Warnick
Senator Doug Ericksen
Senator Barbara Bailey
Senator Randy Becker
Senator Jan Angel
Senator Ann Rivers
Senator Don Benton
Senator Mark Schoesler
Senator Bruce Dammeier
Senator Kirk Pearson
Senator Mike Padden