Hutchinson: Vetting not strong enough for Syria refugees

Staff Writer

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday defended his opposition to relocating any Syrian refugees to the state, saying he doesn't believe there's a strong enough vetting process before they enter the country.

Hutchinson told reporters there aren't any plans to relocate Syrian refugees to the state, but said he'll tell state officials to resist any federal efforts to move them here. Hutchinson a day earlier joined other GOP governors in opposing the Syrian refugees in the wake of last week's attack in Paris.

Hutchinson, a former federal Homeland Security undersecretary, said his opposition stems from concerns about the screening process for the refugees.

"Whenever you have someone coming with no documentation, with them reciting their own history, you can't query a database and get a sufficient check," Hutchinson told reporters by phone from Japan, where he's visiting as part of a trade mission. "You actually have to have people on the ground who can do investigations as to someone's background, and even then it's not foolproof. I'm not satisfied with the vetting process, and I don't think the intelligence community is satisfied with the vetting process as well."

Hutchinson was expected to join other governors in a conference call with the White House on the issue Tuesday afternoon. Legal experts say governors don't have the authority to block refugees from settling in their communities under the Refugee Act of 1980.

Also Tuesday, Republican U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford introduced legislation placing an immediate moratorium on the relocation of Syrian and Iraqi refugees to the United States. Crawford's proposal would give governors and state legislatures the authority to decide whether to accept refugees.

Hutchinson said he announced his opposition partly to assure Arkansans that there weren't any plans to move refugees to the state. He also distanced himself from other Republicans who are calling for a religious test, saying he doesn't think refugee relocations should be limited only to Christians.

"If there is someone fleeing with their family from a war-torn country seeking refuge, you don't make distinctions based upon that basis," Hutchinson said. "That's not part of my policy or beliefs."

Hutchinson said his opposition is also partly guided by Arkansas' history in accepting refugees. He said the riots that occurred when 25,000 Cuban refugees were housed at Fort Chaffee in 1980 showed the need for better checks.

"Just because the federal government assures us there's an adequate vetting process, I'm not convinced," he said.



Malvern Daily Records Friends 2 Follow