Officials: 14 Syrian Refugees get access to Louisiana this year
NEW ORLEANS – A day after Gov. Bobby Jindal sent a letter to the White House demanding to hear from President Barack Obama the number of Syrian refugees who have been allowed into Louisiana, the State Department confirmed the number this year was 14.
“As Governor of Louisiana, I demand information about the Syrian refugees being placed in Louisiana in hopes that the night of horror in Paris is not duplicated here,” Jindal wrote in his letter Saturday.
Seven Syrian refugees have been resettled in Kenner, while six have been placed in New Orleans with one placed in Baton Rouge, a State Department spokesperson said Sunday in response to a request for the numbers from WWL-TV.
Jindal’s letter came at the end of a day in which multiple blogs reported that 10,000 Syrian refugees had already made their way to New Orleans. Many of the blogs were published earlier this month but appeared to gain new life following Friday’s terror attacks in Paris.
The blogs also include an image, purportedly of Syrian men in New Orleans, which actually is a photograph of migrants protesting outside of a train station in Budapest, Hungary, on Sept. 3.
While the Obama administration has announced plans to resettle 10,000 Syrian refuges in the United States in 2016, the State Department on Sunday said those people will be spread across the country, not in one area.
“We do not have projections on how many Syrians will be resettled in each state. However, those allocations are made in close collaboration with the nongovernmental organizations that resettle refugees as well as with state and local government officials,” the State Department said in a statement.
There have been 1,809 Syrian refugees, seeking to escape a 4-year-old civil war, admitted to the U.S. since January, according to data from the Refugee Processing Center.
Those who have been granted access to the U.S. have been placed in 130 towns and cities, according to a report in The New York Times. And most of those people have been single mothers and their children, religious minorities, or victims of violence or torture, according to The Times.
The majority of the refugees have been placed in medium-size cities as compared to large metropolitan area. Boise, Idaho, for example, has accepted more Syrian refugees than Los Angeles and New York combined.
Chief among the concerns of many people is safety.
Residents and elected leaders in Duncan, S.C., have argued that the federal government cannot screen out terrorists who might try to infiltrate the country by claiming to be someone fleeing Syria for his or her own safety.
Jindal in his letter asked the president for clarification on the level of background screening conducted before entry to the U.S. and what monitoring will take place after individuals are placed in Louisiana.
According to The Times, refugees trying to gain entry to the U.S. must first apply through the United Nations.
Before being accepted to the country, the FBI screens each applicant and completes background checks using databases run by the Defense Department and other federal agencies.
The 10,000 refugees expected to be allowed into the country in 2016 would come from 18,000 referrals the United Nations has already submitted.
More than half of those referrals are children, according to the State Department.
Gubernatorial candidates U.S. Sen. David Vitter and state Rep. John Bel Edwards each issued statements calling for more information about security measures before allowing any additional refugees to enter the country.
“As an Army Officer, I took an oath to preserve and protect the people of this country,” Edwards said on Saturday. “In light of the recent tragedy in Paris, it’s imperative for us to pause the influx of refugees flowing into our state without more information on the security measures in place”
“President Obama’s plan to bring 10,000 Syrian refugees to the U.S. – just like his statement made a day before the Paris attacks that ISIS was ‘contained’ — is outrageous and irresponsible. That’s exactly how at least one, maybe more, of the Paris terrorists got there,” Vitter added in a statement released Sunday.
But the Obama administration stood steadfast in its defense of existing security measures.
Speaking Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security advisor, said that there are “very expensive screening procedures” for all Syrian refugees.
“There’s a very careful vetting process that includes our intelligence community, our national Counterterrorism Center, the Department of Homeland Security, so we can make sure that we’re carefully screening anybody that’s coming into to the United States,” he said.
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