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Snyder: More work to be done on refugees

Dec 16, 2015

Syrian children at a refugee camp in Lebanon
Credit UNHCR / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Governor Rick Snyder says he’s closer to lifting the “pause” on his efforts to bring more refugees from Syria and the Middle East to Michigan.

Snyder was among a group of governors on a conference call this week with the nation’s homeland security chief. He says federal officials are working through concerns expressed by governors on relocation efforts following the attacks in Paris and Beirut.

“The federal government has acknowledged that these are reasonable questions that are good ones to ask, and we have a chance to get the answers and move forward,” Snyder said in a year-end interview with Michigan Public Radio. “I’m interested in actually getting it so we can continue to be a welcoming place.”  

He says the concerns are driven by prudence.         

“Let’s make sure we answer the questions appropriately and then we can move forward.”

Snyder said U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson spent about half-an-hour on the phone with the Council of Governors, a federally created bipartisan body of 10 governors that offers advice on defense and security issues. Snyder sits in the council.

Snyder says there will be another meeting in early January that will likely include state police officials, and that could be followed up with a session when the National Governors Association meets in February. Snyder did not say what specific concerns governors have about refugee relocations.

The governor came in for some criticism after he called for a “pause” in relocation efforts following the terrorist attacks in Beirut and Paris.

Snyder’s statement was followed by other Republican governors and several GOP presidential candidates calling for more onerous restrictions. Snyder has tried repeatedly since then to reframe his position, including a guest column this week in The Detroit Free Press that said it’s unfair to lump him in with politicians like Donald Trump, who has called for a ban on admitting Muslims to the U.S. 

The governor had previously called for more resettlements in Michigan under an Obama administration program to bring 10,000 Syrian refugees to the U.S. in 2016. Southeast Michigan has one of the largest concentrations Middle Eastern-Americans in the country.