Alabama sues US government for concealing info on new Syrian refugees
"We decided to file this lawsuit because of the frustration that we have suffered related to the fact that the federal government has not responded at all to us as a state dealing with the refugee resettlement,” Governor Robert Bentley said, according to local news website AL.com.
According to Bentley, the US government ignored Alabama’s request to share information on the refugees, including their medical history, before they move to the state.
“They have not done what we have asked them to do: give us pre-entry information on individuals as they come into the state, not only as far as numbers but as far as individuals and names of individuals so that we would know who we were dealing with if they were being resettled into Alabama," Bentley said.
By filing a lawsuit, which names the heads of multiple federal agencies, in a federal court in Birmingham, Alabama is hoping to make the administration comply with the Refugee Act of 1980 and "consult with the state regarding the placement of refugees before those refugees are placed within its borders," AL.com reports.
"What we're asking in this suit is basically that they treat the state with respect. That we are the ones who secure the people of this state and protect the people of this state and we need to have the information on refugees as they come in to allow us to do that," said the governor.
The suit also seeks a court order for compulsory "certification by the (US) secretary of state or the relevant federal official with knowledge ... that those refugees pose no security risk."
Bentley has blasted “the process and manner” in which the federal government “is blatantly excluding the states” when it comes to the refugee resettlement program.
Alabama officials reportedly sent letters with requests to several major federal departments, including the White House and Department of State. However, they have not gotten a response from federal officials.
"We believe they are intentionally circumventing the states," said Bentley, adding that it was his duty as the governor to secure and protect the people of Alabama. “I am not able to do that if we don't know who is coming from foreign nations and we know nothing about them and we don't even know where they go when they leave the state."
Bentley is one of several governors who vocally opposed the resettlement of Syrian refugees to their states. Following deadly attacks in Paris in November, Bentley issued a statement saying that he would not “stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way.”
Alabama has become the second state to sue the federal government over concerns about the placement of refugees. In early December, the Texas health and Human Service Commission sued the US State Department and Secretary of State John Kerry, among others, requesting the US District Court in Dallas to issue a restraining order and an injunction that would jeopardize the resettlement plan.
Texas accused the government of violating its “statutory duty” to “consult regularly” with the state before settling Syrian refugees.
In late September, the US said that over the next two years it would be accepting 15,000 refugees more from around the world than it currently accepts.