Tulsa mayor, state lawmakers call for pause on Syrian refugees

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Quick Facts:

  • Governor Mary Fallin urged President Obama to suspend US refugee acceptance
  • Several states have said they will no longer accept Syrian refugees
  • Sen. Inhofe also calls on US to suspend Syrian refugee acceptance
  • Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett released a letter asking the president to suspend the program

Governor Mary Fallin says Oklahoma will not stop accepting Syrian refugees but urges President Obama to suspend the US acceptance of the program. 

"The Obama administration needs to assure the public that the background checks they are doing are rigorous, and that American lives will not be endangered in the process," said Fallin. "Until then, I call on the Obama administration to suspend any Syrian refugees into the United States. During these uncertain times, the Obama administration needs to make sure those entering the United States are not terrorists. During a U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing last week, FBI Director James Comey said there is a risk bringing anybody in from the outside, but especially from a conflict zone like Syria. The American people need to be assured that national security will not be compromised," said Fallin. "We must maintain a strict verification process against possible terrorists."

Some states have already announced plans to stop accepting refugees. The governor said she has confidence in the two refugee processing affiliates in the state. Catholic Charities in Oklahoma City and Catholic Charities in Tulsa have the responsibility of placing refugees in the state.

Since 2012, three refugees from Syria have been placed in Jenks, according to information from Catholic Charities in Tulsa and the U.S. Department of State.  The three, aged 50, 44 and 14, were brought to Jenks to live with family members.

Catholic Charities in Tulsa and in Oklahoma City predominantly only assist refugees seeking family reunification.

"Oklahomans have welcomed refugees escaping religious persecution for many years and will continue to do so," Fallin said.

Mayor Dewey Bartlett expressed concerns about US borders Monday. He told FOX23 he wants vigilance with who we let in and said he doesn't trust the US's border security to begin with:

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On Tuesday, he released a letter to the president asking the administration to improve the vetting process and pause it until issues have been addressed. 

"In light of the recent terrorist events in Paris, France, I strongly encourage you and your administration to immediately improve the procedures of evaluating and approving applications of individuals claiming refugee status. Secondly, I equally underscore the need for all of our borders to be secure and controlled. Until these needs are accomplished, I do not support the Syrian refugees being given access to this country beyond our borders.

The entirety of our country must have confidence in your system, especially so when high ranking members of your intelligence communities are visibly concerned about only having access to very minimal data for verification purposes. 

Our 'heart of the country' values to help our fellow man are never in question. Our humanitarian outreaches to all mankind are prevalent and well documented. We are ready to be of service, but we must have a confident and verifiable answer to the question, 'are we safe regarding our national security at our borders, especially regarding the present and future inflow of non-US citizens?'"

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee released a statement calling for a pause in the United States’ acceptance of Syrian refugees until Congress can review the vetting process: 

“In light of the attacks in Paris, I call on the Obama administration to put a pause in accepting Syrians as refugees into the United States until Congress can review and conduct appropriate oversight of the State Department’s vetting process. Accepting refugees is an important and historical practice of our nation, but the Syrian refugee situation is atypical due to ISIS’s attempts to exploit the crisis and concerns over the validity of Syrian passports. We saw this danger first hand with Ahmad Al Mohammad who participated in the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and whose passport and fingerprints matched a person who passed through Greece as a Syrian refugee. With ISIS releasing a video on Monday vowing its next attacks on America, this is clearly not a time for the Obama administration to increase, much less expedite, refugees being brought to our soil. As the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said, ‘We don’t obviously put it past the likes of ISIL to infiltrate operatives among these refugees.’ Furthermore, the Obama administration must better secure our dangerously porous borders.  One ISIS terrorist entering our country – through whatever means – will enable that cancer to grow and will directly threaten our homeland and its people.”