Governor Who Started Stampede Against Refugees Says He Only Wants Answers Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a self-described pro-immigration Republican, was the first to ask for a pause on Syrian refugees to be relocated to his state.
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Governor Who Started Stampede Against Refugees Says He Only Wants Answers

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Governor Who Started Stampede Against Refugees Says He Only Wants Answers

Governor Who Started Stampede Against Refugees Says He Only Wants Answers

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So that is the debate in Europe. Next we'll hear from the governor, who did a lot to trigger debate in the United States.


Michigan's Rick Snyder was the first governor to call for a pause in admitting Syrian refugees to the United States, and in particular, to his state. Dozens of governors have since followed in different ways.

MONTAGNE: Republican presidential candidates offered their views. Some said they'd like to favor Christian refugees over Muslims. New Jersey's Chris Christie said he wouldn't admit a 3-year-old orphan because he doesn't trust President Obama's screening.

INSKEEP: On this program, the Democratic governor of Washington state responded. He said, refusing refugees would betray the words on the Statue of Liberty. Yet, when we reached the Republican governor who spoke out first, Rick Snyder insisted he never wanted a partisan fight.

RICK SNYDER: Politics should not be the driving force here. It should be what's in the best interest of our country, just stand for the spirit of our country, what the Statue of Liberty says, and at the same time, practice national security in a very thoughtful and effective way.

INSKEEP: Snyder is in an unusual situation. He is Republican, and many leaders in his party have made incendiary remarks about illegal immigrants and Muslims. Yet, Snyder told us he does not speak for his party. He says he is pro-immigrant. His state is a notable Arab-American population. And before the Paris attacks, Snyder was actually proposing that Michigan accept more refugees. In our talk, you hear a governor raising concerns about Syrian refugees while trying not to go too far.

SNYDER: We've always been good about having people come to our country to rebuild their lives. So in a general sense, I've been very much in favor of refugees across the world. The issue that I said we should hit the pause button for is these horrific terrorist events that have sort of coincided. We have Paris in particular, but also the suicide bombings in Lebanon, you know, 43 people died there, and then the Egyptian airline bombing. I think it would be great if we had more transparency and awareness of the review processes to let in people coming here for the American dream in a positive way.

INSKEEP: What concerns you, if anything, about the security check that's currently in place that takes almost two years in many cases, that involve the National Counterterrorism Center and other agencies?

SNYDER: Well, I wouldn't single out any specific problem I have with it. But when you have these events, doesn't it make sense you should pause and simply say, let's continue looking at these events? And I really want the federal government to come back and say, you know, we have now made a review of these at least three situations and believe their current system is acceptable or not or that they're making some modifications. I don't think that's an unreasonable thing. I view that as pretty good old-fashioned common sense, you know, being careful and at the same time trying to be proactive.

INSKEEP: There are people who come to the United States on tourist visas. There are people who don't even need visas to enter the United States from Western Europe, which is the point of origin for some of the Paris attackers for example. Would you also pause the other ways that people can enter the United States?

SNYDER: Well, I wouldn't necessarily do that. But again, this is a particular case of this refugee process that there's a heightened degree of concern. I heard that from our citizens. And this is a case where I think there's a lot of concern in the general public. And actually, I believe this review process could give people more comfort that the right things were being done as opposed to just simply ignoring these terrible incidents around the world. Isn't it better to say we're being cognizant of it? We're recognizing they're things that need to be reviewed and considered and after that review and consideration, if they come out and say we believe they have the right process, then we can instill more confidence in our citizens to make it a more accepting process for refugees.

INSKEEP: I don't mean to palaver this point, but I'm still wondering why only focus on refugees when there's so many other ways, much quicker ways, that people can enter the United States?

SNYDER: Again, I hope they're making a regular review of all those questions. The one that stood out most quickly though was the refugee question about the process.

INSKEEP: So suppose President Obama picked up the phone and called you this evening and said, Governor, I heard about your concern, we looked into it and it turns out we do have a strong review process. It takes up to a couple of years and we think it's good. Would you be satisfied?

SNYDER: That would be helpful. I would have to say what's going on in the actual conversation. But I put that out on the table to begin with. I actually wrote a letter - I think it was on Monday - to Secretary of State Kerry, and Secretary of Homeland Security Johnson, basically asking for that, asking that the review be made and please respond to my letter, that you're confident we have the appropriate practices in place. So I'm hopefully going to get a response to the letter I sent them.

INSKEEP: It's easy to suspect that conservatives would not believe any reassurance that President Obama gave. Are you saying that that reassurance could be enough from this president?

SNYDER: Well again, I've - from the administration, I would hope this should not be a partisan issue as much as a good issue about national security and striking that balance between being an opening country. As I said, that's in the core DNA of who we are as Americans. And at the same time, striking the right balance with national security to keep terrorists out of our country.

INSKEEP: Governor Snyder, thanks very much.

SNYDER: It's great to be with you, Steve. Take care.

INSKEEP: Rick Snyder is the governor of Michigan. He called for a pause in accepting Syrian refugees. We invite you to stay with your public radio station throughout this day and on NPR's All Things Considered. We will have the latest on today's assault by gunmen on a hotel in Mali. Keeping you in touch with the world, it's Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

MONTAGNE: And I'm Renee Montagne

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