Gov. Bobby Jindal — as other governors did for their states — attempted to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Louisiana, following the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris last week.
Jindal issued an executive order on Monday, citing the governor’s authority to respond to the threat of emergency in the state.
It’s unclear what the order will mean in practice, but it likely will mean little. The federal government handles the resettlement of refugees and doesn’t need the state’s support. The Refugee Resettlement Act of 1980 does not grant states authority in the process.
The order calls on state agencies to implement “all lawful means to prevent the resettlement of Syrian refugees” here and authorizes the State Police to monitor and avert threats from refugees who have already made it to Louisiana.
An estimated 14 Syrian refugees have been placed in Louisiana.
State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson said after being briefed by the FBI in New Orleans that there is currently no reason to believe Louisiana is at threat because of the refugees here already, but he takes issue with the lack of information Louisiana has received from the State Department about the refugee program.
“The public would just like to know that they are here for the right reasons,” he said. “The Department of State needs to make sure they calm the fears of Americans.”
He said the state still does not have detailed information on the refugees here or the vetting process they have gone through.
Over the weekend, Jindal wrote a letter to President Barack Obama seeking more information. His executive order is among actions of at least a dozen governors so far who are seeking to stop Syrian refugees from coming to their states.
Edmonson said he thinks that Jindal’s order, no matter what it accomplishes in practice, sends a “strong message” to the State Department that states deserve to know more about refugees.
“We have a lot of questions, but unfortunately we don’t have a lot of answers,” Edmonson said. “I just think they can do a better job of getting that information to us.”
The refugee situation over the weekend became a hot topic in the gubernatorial race to replace Jindal.
Both Democrat John Bel Edwards and Republican David Vitter have called for a moratorium on the placement of Syrian refugees in Louisiana following the attacks. The two face each other in Saturday’s runoff.
Edwards’ campaign said over the weekend he was in contact with Edmonson, as well as Mike Ranatza, of the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association, about the status of refugees in Louisiana.
“News reports indicate that more than a dozen refugees have made their way to Louisiana,” Edwards said in a statement. “While we understand the need to provide a safe haven from those facing persecution, we cannot do it at the expense of the safety of our people here in Louisiana. This isn’t political. We have an obligation to put aside the partisan rhetoric and work together to keep our people safe.”
Vitter’s campaign has sent numerous emails to supporters about Syrian refugees on Sunday, circulated a Facebook petition and deployed at least one robocall on the issue.
“While it is absolutely important to help those in need, I have serious concerns about the protocols regulating who comes into our country. We need to make sure that those entering the United States are exactly who they say they are — not ISIS terrorists,” Vitter said in one email.
He also called on New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to “deploy significant counter-terrorism measures” in light of the attacks.
Landrieu responded Monday questioning why Vitter targeted New Orleans, when other parts of the state also have received Syrian refugees.
“It is curious whether Senator Vitter has written the heads of other parishes and municipalities, who are in fact hosting more refugees than New Orleans,” Landrieu said. “It should be clear that Senator Vitter has been absent in the fight to make our streets safe, and he continues to make statements focused on pure political gain to try to resurrect his flailing gubernatorial campaign. Matters of national security are no place for politics.”