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Sunday, February 25, 2024
Feb. 25, 2024

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In Our View: Inslee’s Power Misunderstood

Those critical of governor’s stance on refugees fail to realize it’s not his call

The Columbian

It would appear to be obvious, but apparently it bears repeating: Governors have no say over whether refugees enter the country or settle in a particular state.

This simple fact did not prevent a group of protesters from demonstrating Friday at the state Capitol in Olympia, taking aim at Gov. Jay Inslee’s welcoming stance toward potential refugees from Syria. Nor did it prevent state Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, from telling the crowd that Inslee should be impeached if the governor does not alter his stance. Nor did it stop state Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, from speaking at the rally and later telling a Portland radio talk show that Inslee’s position is a “grave mistake.”

At issue is the notion of refugees from war-torn Syria entering the United States. The United Nations estimates that 4 million people have fled that country during its four-year civil war, and others have called the situation the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. The Obama administration has expressed the intention of allowing 100,000 Syrian refugees into this country by the end of 2017. Those plans have come under increased scrutiny in the past 11 days, since Islamic extremists murdered more than 100 people during coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris, leading to fears that terrorists or potential terrorists could enter the United States amid a wave of refugees.

Following those attacks, Inslee said Washington would accept refugees who had been vetted by the federal program, adding, “We have been and will continue to be a state that embraces compassion and eschews fear-mongering.” Others have not been as welcoming. The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill to essentially halt the flow of Syrian immigrants and has threatened a government shutdown to force the issue.

A pause in the acceptance of Syrian refugees — which can come only at the federal level — seems sensible as U.S. officials review their already stringent protocols and weigh public sentiment. And while citizens can and should embrace their right to protest, having state lawmakers stoke public fears and criticize Inslee for expressing compassion is illogical and harmful to the process.

Did we mention that Inslee has no say in whether a particular refugee is admitted to the United States or whether that refugee settles in Washington? The federal government determines policies governing refugees, and once an immigrant is in the country, he or she may live wherever that person chooses. That is one of the benefits of residing in the United States.

During an interview on National Public Radio, Inslee said: “Well, I think in moments like this, you’ve got to understand, fear is a powerful thing. And these atrocities strike deep. And people are going to have very legitimate and real concerns. But I think that leadership calls for people to, yes, recognize it’s real, act responsibly. In this case, that means insisting on a robust, multilayered screening process before they’re (immigrants) allowed in this country.” The screening process is, indeed, robust and multilayered, and Inslee spelled it out in a letter to lawmakers (http://tinyurl.com/olm7s2h).

Meanwhile, calls for the governor’s impeachment bring about a peculiar irony. The rally protesting potential Syrian immigrants was organized by ACT for America, a national organization that states one of its key purposes is “to see that every one of our elected officials — at all levels of government — has the information necessary to make educated and informed decisions.” Maybe they can start with a couple of lawmakers in Washington state.