In mid-September, shortly after hearing about President Obama’s plan to accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees to the U.S. over the next year, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) had an unexpected response: “I support that.”
The Republican president hopeful said – on Fox News, no less – that in the face of an international crisis, “America needs to be part of this solution.”
Two months later, Kasich, who earned plaudits for standing with the White House, decided he no longer agrees with his own position. “The governor is writing to the president to ask him to stop [accepting Syrian refugees], and to ask him to stop resettling them in Ohio,” Kasich’s spokesperson said yesterday. “We are also looking at what additional steps Ohio can take to stop resettlement of these refugees.”
No Profile in Courage Award for you, gov.
As MSNBC’s Aliyah Frumin explained, Kasich is hardly alone.
A tidal wave consisting almost entirely of Republicans swept into the national debate on Monday, with governors and presidential candidates alike demanding that the U.S. stop accepting Syrian refugees. […]At least 22 GOP governors have announced that they either oppose accepting Syrian refugees or will not allow any more – either temporarily or permanently – into their states, even as the Obama administration says it will continue to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year. Critics, meanwhile are decrying the move as fear-mongering at its worst.
The critics are saying that, of course, because this is fear-mongering at its worst. It also happens to be exactly what ISIS wants to see happen.
The obvious question, though, is whether governors have any choice in the matter. Do states have the option of simply blocking refugees because they fear ISIS’s victims?
The short answer is, no. In fact, the very idea of governors claiming the authority to block people who are in the country legally from entering their respective states is rather bizarre. There is no mechanism in place for such a blockade, just as there is no law that allows state preferences to trump federal policy.
That said, The New Republic’s Suzy Khimm explained that if governors want to make life incredibly difficult for ISIS’s victims, they can (and probably will).
[S]tates could try to obstruct the process of refugee resettlement, making it harder for those fleeing war, violence, and persecution to build a new life in the U.S. Once the federal government clears a refugee for admission, federal officials work with state-level refugee coordinators to help determine where in the U.S. the refugee should be resettled. State agencies are also responsible for directing federal funds to non-profit organizations that provide social services to newly resettled refugees. Collaborating closely with local governments, these agencies help them find housing, enroll their children in school, and look for work.State governments could potentially refuse to pass any federal money to non-profit organizations that help refugees; their agencies could also refuse to work with non-profits and local governments to help refugees establish a new life in the U.S.
Refugee resettlement could continue anyway, but states could make a difficult process far worse, on purpose.
So what’s next? While roughly half of the nation’s governors pander to the fearful, policymakers on Capitol Hill, nearly all of whom are Republicans, are also looking for creative ways to ride the wave of panic. This includes legislation to ban all Muslim refugees from Syria from entering the United States, a moratorium on visas, and a possible government shutdown next month over refugee resettlement funding.
We’re occasionally reminded that fear, bigotry, and politics can be a toxic combination.