White House giving govs more refugee info; Haslam pleased

The White House sought Monday to ease concerns among the nation’s governors about Syrian refugees entering the United States by proposing a new program that would provide regular data on refugees who have settled in their states, reports Michael Collins.

In a letter to Gov. Bill Haslam and other governors, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough defended the refugee vetting process as “extraordinarily thorough and comprehensive.” But McDonough said the administration would be willing to work through the National Governors Association to set up a new system to provide governors with more information about the refugees in their states.

Under the new program, once the State Department receives a governor’s request for data on refugees, it would compile a report tailored to that individual state. The data would include information on refugees resettled in the state during the prior month and the fiscal year to date.

…In response to the White House letter, Haslam said he was “pleased to see them responding to what a lot of governors had asked. As I understand it, they said two things: No. 1, they will give us a way to access the data about who has recently settled here in terms of — not names — but how many, ages, families, et cetera, so I think that will help. And then No. 2, they’ve agreed to have a collaborative process about how governors might be more involved in the vetting process, which I was encouraged to see as well.

“I don’t know what that looks like yet but I think they basically said we would set down at the NGA (National Governors Association annual winter meeting), which is in February in Washington. So we’re still two, two-and-a-half months out, but I think that’s good news.”

In addition to the new program proposed, the State Department and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are prepared to brief governors on the refugee resettlement process and to discuss working together to improve the program at the next governors’ association meeting, McDonough said.