Gov. Bill Haslam was among 34 governors joining a conference call, arranged by Obama administration officials, on refugee policies and security screening procedures Wednesday, according to David Smith, the governor’s communications director. His emailed comment on the meeting:
Yesterday the governor took part in a conference call with both Democratic and Republican governors, senior White House officials as well as officials from the Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, FBI and others regarding Syrian refugees. He was briefed on the screening and vetting process of refugees before they can travel to the U.S. Screening, acceptance and placement is legally under the authority of the federal government, but a common sentiment expressed by Democrat and Republican governors was for states to be included as part of the process.
Here’s the White House press release, dated Wednesday:
Today, the White House hosted a call with a bipartisan group of 34 governors from across the country to provide information about existing refugee admissions policies and security screening measures. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough led the call and was joined by Alejandro Mayorkas, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security; Simon Henshaw, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration; Mark Giuliano, Deputy Director of the FBI; and representatives from the National Counterterrorism Center and the Department of Health and Human Services.
The call lasted almost 90 minutes, including an extensive question and answer session among the governors and Administration officials. The officials briefed the governors on the rigorous screening and security vetting process that is required before a refugee is able to travel to the United States. Thirteen governors asked questions.
The Administration officials reiterated what the President has made abundantly clear: that his top priority is the safety of the American people. That’s why, even as the United States accepts more refugees—including Syrians—we do so only after they undergo the most rigorous screening and security vetting of any category of traveler to the United States.
Several Governors expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to better understand the process and have their issues addressed directly by representatives of the agencies responsible for the refugee and screening programs. Others encouraged further communication to ensure that governors are able to better respond to questions from the public about the refugee screening and resettlement process.
Denis McDonough also committed to working with the National Governors Association to improve information sharing and maintain an ongoing dialogue.