Now that three increasingly stern letters have failed to get a response from federal officials, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley is moving forward with a lawsuit against the United States and the State Department to prevent unvetted Syrian refugees from being resettled in Alabama.
Filed Thursday, the suit names several U.S. Departments and their department heads as defendants. Those include the U.S. State Department and its Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) as well as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and its Office of Refugee Resettlement.In a prepared statement, Bentley said the lawsuit stems from federal officials not consulting with Alabama regarding the placement of refugees – something the state claims violates the Refugee Act of 1980.
According to Bentley, the federal government has “failed to provide Alabama with sufficient information about the refugees who have settled or will be settled in the state,” and the state has been “denied a meaningful role and input into the process.”
It’s not the first time Bentley has raised concerns over the issue. Last September, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the Obama Administration was prepared to take in 85,000 refugees this year and up to 100,000 by 2017.
Currently, the U.S. takes in an average of 70,000 refugees annually through the State Department’s Refugee Resettlement Program, but the increase was proposed in response to the growing migrant crisis stemming from the Middle East and specifically Syria.
The state department uses 315 affiliated offices in approximately 180 communities throughout the country to house refugees from all over the globe and one of those — the only one in Alabama — is located in Mobile through Catholic Social Services (CSS) under the Archdiocese of Mobile.
In November, following a terrorist attack in Paris that killed 130 people, Bentley publicly announced Alabama would refuse any refugees from Syria and other countries in the area over security concerns due to what he called “glaring flaws in the refugee vetting process.”
Since then, Bentley has pressed the Obama Administration for information regarding the refugee resettlement program through written correspondence, but so far hasn’t gotten any answers.
“On three separate occasions I have sent letters to the White House requesting information on the Refugee Reception Program in Alabama and these letters have gone unanswered,” Bentley said. “The process and manner in which the Obama Administration and the federal government are executing the Refugee Reception Program is blatantly excluding the states.”
Specifically, the lawsuit is asking the U.S. District Court in Birmingham to find the actions of the Obama Administration violated the “constitutional duty” to the affected states under the Refugee Act of 1980 by excluding them from the process.
The lawsuit also asks the court to require the federal government to provide complete files on each of the refugees to include medical history, to certify that refugees pose no security risk and to include Alabama in the process resettling refugees within its borders.
“My number one concern is the safety for the people of Alabama and making sure an outdated, archaic and dangerous process that excludes the states is eliminated,” Bentley said. “We simply cannot have a federal program that impacts states yet doesn’t allow states access to critical information. By filing suit, my goal is to reform the way the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the State Department handle the Refugee Resettlement Program.”
The full legal complaint can be read below.
Alabama v USA
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