Gov. Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell have joined Republican political leaders around the nation in criticizing plans by the Obama administration to allow Syrian refugees into the United States. Haslam, Ramsey and Harwell specifically say they don’t want the refugees in Tennessee.
News release from the governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today released the following statement regarding the terrorist attacks in Paris and the placement of Syrian refugees:
“As we mourn the loss of innocent life from Friday’s horrific and cowardly attacks in Paris, these terrible events have once again shown us that the threat of Islamic terrorism knows no boundaries and recognizes no borders. We as a state must do everything we can to provide Tennesseans the safe environment to live, work and raise a family that so many across the world seek.
“Since Friday the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security has been in contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and this administration has actively shared information with our local public safety partners across Tennessee.
“We are currently working to get specifics from the U.S. Department of State on the status of any Syrian refugees currently slated to come to Tennessee. While screening, acceptance and placement is legally under the authority of the federal government, they have said in the past they would be open to cooperating with receiving states. Today I’m asking the federal government to suspend placements in Tennessee until states can become more of a partner in the vetting process.”
Note: Some other Republican governors have declared flatly they will not accept any Syrian refugees — for example, those in Arkansas, Alabama, Texas and Louisiana. Fox News story HERE.
Text of letter from Speakers Harwell and Ramsey to the Tennessee congressional delegation:
November 16, 2016
Dear members of the Tennessee Congressional Delegation,
We write to you regarding an urgent matter of great importance.
Recent events have made it clear that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is ramping up its operations of terror against the United States and Europe. Tennessee itself experienced an act of terrorism just a few months ago in Chattanooga. Our thoughts and prayers are with the citizens of France.
On Friday, a well-planned, coordinated attack took the lives of over 120 people in Paris, leaving more than 300 injured. ISIS has claimed responsibility. A clear pattern of terror has emerged, and we can no longer turn a blind eye to it. Radical Islam has declared war on the West, and the West must do more to defend itself.
This country and our beloved state of Tennessee have a long record of welcoming immigrants. We are a nation of immigrants, and we would not be the nation we are without them. But national security and the safety of Tennesseans come first.
The mass movement of legitimate refugees seeking asylum is heartbreaking, and our heart goes out to each and every man, woman and child who is fleeing legitimate political persecution. But the opportunity that radical Islamists could imbed themselves in the movement of refugees is large and growing. These refugees are impossible to investigate and properly vet.
Out of an abundance of caution, the flow of refugees must be stopped. As Tennessee’s congressional delegation, we ask you to advocate strongly for an immediate moratorium on refugees entering the United States, specifically Tennessee.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if there is anything we can do to assist you in this effort.
Ron Ramsey Beth Harwell
Lieutenant Governor Speaker of the House
Tennessee General Assembly Tennessee General Assembly