As the world continues to mourn the tragedy in Paris, plenty are wondering what will happen to the thousands of Syrian refugees escaping a civil war by coming to the United States including in Connecticut.
Eight governors from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan and Texas said they will not accept refugees in their states.
However, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said he will grant asylum for Syrian refugees.
“If refugees – many who are children fleeing a horrific, war-torn country – seek and are granted asylum after a rigorous security process, we should and will welcome them in Connecticut," Devon Puglia, Malloy's director of communications, said in a statement on Monday.
Puglia said the governor is awaiting more guidance from the federal government, Homeland Security, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
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"Women were raped. Children were damaged. People have lost limbs. We have an obligation as Americans to do our part in those situations, but do it at a very high standard with a very good background system, which I think the federal government has,” Malloy said.
Malloy said he felt safe bringing in refugees.
“Listen, that what we are as Americans. Christians have been singled out for murder, assassination, rape, for maiming. Of course American needs to do its part,” Malloy said.
Malloy said the security process is 12 to 18 months for a refugee to be accepted in United States.
“I think there is a lot of hysteria. We're not saying French people can't come to the United States. We're not saying Belgians can't come to the United States, why should we single out any one country,” Malloy said.
On Friday night, an attack in Paris killed 129 and injured more than 350.
Governors throughout the country said they worried after it was reported that one of the attackers had a Syrian passport and that he traveled through Greece earlier this year along with thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing that country's civil war. The terror group ISIS, who carried out the attack, is based out of Syria.
At the State Capitol, Connecticut’s Republicans are questioning the governor's stance.
“We cannot rely solely on people at the federal level to tell us who should be allowed in and where they would be housed – we need to hear from Connecticut’s own experts to come up with a safe, secure plan,’’ House Republican Leader Themis Klarides said.
Klarides went on to say that Malloy wanted to house 2,000 Mexican immigrants at the Southbury Training School, but “that approach was rejected for a variety of reasons.”
“I am curious as to whether Governor Malloy’s position has changed with respect to Connecticut’s ability to accommodate a relatively large group of these people,” said Klarides who added her biggest concern is security.
But, the governor said he is holding firm on.
“No one is taking a raft from Turkey to get to here. We're not talking about hundreds of thousands of people. We're talking about babies, we're talking women who were raped because they're a different religion,” Malloy said. “We're talking about political leaders who stood up to tyranny. We're talking about people who've been maimed. America should do its job.”
Despite those concerns, President Barack Obama said the country as a whole could continue to accept refugees.
He said during a news conference at the G-20 Summit in Turkey that to refuse them would be "not American. That's not who we are."
Obama said he is hoping to re-settle up to 10,000 Syrian refugees across the country in the next year.
Millions of Syrians have fled their country to neighboring Middle Eastern and European nations.
How refugees become citizens in America
In Connecticut, one of three refugee resettlement agencies is the Catholic Charities in Hartford. The organizations help refugees hit the ground running, but they are just one step on a long road for any refugee who wants to come to America.
Chris George, the director of Integrated Immigrant and Refugee Services in New Haven, said America has one of the toughest refugee vetting processes in the world.
First, anyone who flees their country must apply for refugee status with the United Nations.
Next, the agency must refer that individual to the United States for resettlement.
Finally, the Department of Homeland Security vets each refugee.
It's not an overnight process and usually takes between two and four years.
"They err on the side of caution...if there is a refugee who they've got questions about, they are off the list. They don't get invited," George said.
He added that any refugees allowed in American have actually been invited by the U.S. government.
"They're fully documented. They have work authorization. They'll have green cards after one year, and they'll be citizens in five years," George said.
Refugees must also take out a loan for their flight to America, then someone from one of the 350 refugee resettlement programs nationwide picks them up at the airport and takes them to an apartment furnished with donated furniture.
George said he has helped six Syrian families move to New Haven since July, but they started that process years ago.
He said the federal government believes about 10,000 Syrian refugees will come to America over the next year, and about 100 of them will likely arrive in Connecticut.
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