Governors of more than half of U.S. states have now said they won’t accept additional refugees from Syria after the attacks Friday in Paris, which French officials say were masterminded by a Belgian who fought for the Islamic State in Syria. As of Tuesday afternoon, governors in 12 states said they would welcome refugees as part of President Obama’s plan to accept 10,000 people in 2016 who are fleeing the Islamic State and Syria’s civil war.
There is one stark, obvious difference between these two groups of states: the party that controls the statehouse. Just one of the 30 governors who oppose taking in more refugees is a Democrat: Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire. All 12 who said their states will continue welcoming refugees are Democrats, as is Muriel Bowser, the mayor of Washington, D.C.1
|STATE||ACCEPTING REFUGEES FROM SYRIA||REFUGEES FROM SYRIA ACCEPTED IN FY 2014||NAME||PARTY||REPUBLICAN TWO-PARTY VOTE SHARE|
Little differentiates the two groups of states in terms of their Syria-born population,2 their prior acceptance of refugees from all countries in fiscal year 2014 (between Oct. 1, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2014)3 or their acceptance of refugees from Syria during that period.4 The overall number of refugees to the U.S. from Syria last fiscal year, though, was tiny: Just 124 settled in 21 of 42 states whose governors have taken a stand — and none at all settled in 21 of the states or in Washington, D.C. Just eight more settled in the rest of the U.S. in 2014.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was one of the first governors to call for a halt to refugees from Syria. “Michigan is a welcoming state and we are proud of our rich history of immigration,” Snyder said in a statement Sunday announcing his position on refugees. “But our first priority is protecting the safety of our residents.”
Obama defended his plan to welcome more refugees from Syria at a news conference in Turkey on Monday. “The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism; they are the most vulnerable as a consequence of civil war and strife,” Obama said.