Gov. Jay Inslee: 'Washington welcomes those seeking refuge'

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WASHINGTON - In the wake of the terror attacks in Paris, more than a dozen state governors say they will not allow thousands of refugees seeking sanctuary to relocate in their states. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is not among them. 

"I stand firmly with President Obama who said [Monday] morning," Jay Inslee said regarding Obama's pledge to accept thousands of Syrian refugees in the next year. "'We do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism.'"

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Why is there conversation about admitting refugees? 

President Barack Obama said Monday that he remains committed to the United States taking in Syrians. He pledged to accept 10,000 in the next year.

Where will the refugees go?

The U.S. State Department said the refugees would be spread across the country. Republican presidential candidates have criticized the plan.

What’s the connection to the Paris attacks?

Authorities said a Syrian passport was found near one of the attackers, and the Paris prosecutors' office says fingerprints from the attacker match those of someone who passed through Greece in October.

Why are some governors saying no? 

The governors are responding to heightened concerns that terrorists might use the refugees as cover to sneak across borders. Authorities said a Syrian passport was found near one of the attackers, and the Paris prosecutors' office says fingerprints from the attacker match those of someone who passed through Greece in October.

Inslee said governors do not decide whether refugees come to their states.

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What is Inslee saying? 

Inslee said on Monday that "Washington will continue to be a state that welcomes those seeking refuge from persecution, regardless of where they come from or the religion they practice." 

The announcement comes as President Barack Obama's administration has pledged to accept about 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next 12 months. The U.S. State Department said the refugees would be spread across the country.  

"It's important to note that governors do not decide whether refugees come to their states. Those decisions are made by the federal government, and the U.S. State Department has a robust system in place to evaluate and place families who seek refugee status," Inslee said. 

His statement came after governors in some southern states said they would not allow Syrian refuges following the Paris attacks. Read the statement in full here. 

"That makes these anti-refugee comments by governors even more troublesome and of little value except to divide people and foment intolerance," Inslee said. 

How can you voice your opinion to the governor?

You can reach can contact Governor Jay Inslee and tell him what you think:

The refugees are already here, according to local the Syrian community.

Hussein Ali came here from Syria in 2011 for school, and stayed for work.  Ali brought his parents here in 2013 when they began fearing for their lives.

Ali’s family was able to immigrate here legally because they’d already started the paperwork before any of us ever heard of ISIS.  He said the refugees coming now face far stricter scrutiny-- months of interviews and background checks, according to the U.S. State Department.

Ali says the few Syrian refugees who are already here told him about the intense and careful process

“It’s very hard, it takes years and years, like 3-4-5 years,” he said.

Why can’t governors block the Syrian refugees coming to their specific states?

People are citing the Refugee Act of 1980, which states governors cannot legally block refugees from settling in their communities.

Which states are saying no to Syrian refugees? There are 26:

  • Alabama 
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Wisconsin

What is the screening processes like for Syrian refugees?

Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) works at the local level to make sure that Seattle is a welcoming place for all immigrants. In a Facebook chat with KIRO 7 News, the group said they do know that the the U.S. State Department has long implemented an extremely thorough vetting process for all refugees.

1. The average processing time for a refugee family is 2 years, where the State Department puts them through multiple security checks with several government agencies.

2. The U.S. works with 9 U.S.-based agencies to resettle refugees in states all over the country. Before arriving into the U.S., each refugee is assigned to a specific resettlement affiliate.

3. After one year, refugees are required to apply for permanent residency (Green Card).

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What about getting jobs in the U.S.?

"The truth is a lot of immigrants and refugees are working jobs that employers often have difficulty filling, such as janitorial, food service, and home care workers," OIRA wrote. "Many immigrants and refugees are filling a growing need for caring for our increasing aging population. And many occupations that refugees end up taking are repetitive and difficult to fill."

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