Inside Augusta

LePage Criticizes President Obama’s Decision to Accept Syrian Refugees

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In a radio address on Monday, Governor LePage criticized the Obama administration’s decision to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees into the United States within the next year, saying that the President’s actions are “irresponsible” in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris and highlighting his efforts to ensure that “Maine is no longer a sanctuary state that harbors illegal aliens.”

Governor LePage pointed to “gaping holes in our immigration policy” and asserted that the U.S. currently lacks the ability to properly vet refugees and apprehend potential terrorists, despite assurances by Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s deputy national security advisor, that “very expansive screening procedures” help identify dangerous individuals. The Governor cited Rep. Mike McCaul of Texas, who has said that American counterterrorism agencies lack the names of more than 5,000 foreign fighters around the world.

LePage’s rebukes of the Obama administration come after nearly a dozen other governors announced that they would not accept Syrian refugees. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has urged the President to reconsider his plans, as have the governors of Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Illinois, and Mississippi.

Two Republican presidential candidates who are governors – John Kasich of Ohio and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana – have also vowed to do all they can to stop the intake of refugees. Despite their protestations, governors’ legal authority to influence refugee settlement is narrow since the federal government controls immigration policy.

According to Catholic Charities, which collaborates with the federal government in settling refugees, only one Syrian refugee has settled in Maine since 2014, though in the year to come indefinite numbers may be relocated to the state.

Governor LePage said that his office had reached out to the French consulate in Boston to offer assistance, and that his staff is in contact with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to monitor possible threats in the state.

About Liam Sigaud

Liam Sigaud is a former policy analyst at The Maine Heritage Policy Center. A native of Rockland, Maine, he holds a B.A. in Biology from the University of Maine at Augusta and has studied policy analysis and economics at the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine. He can be reached by email at liam.sigaud@maine.edu.

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