ATLANTA - Georgia Governor Nathan Deal said the state will not accept Syrian refugees, joining leaders of other states who made similar statements Monday.
Deal, a Republican, issued an executive order on Monday afternoon directing state officials to prevent resettlement of Syrian refugees in Georgia. Deal said he took the step "in light of" Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris.
In a statement released to FOX 5 News, Deal said:
“In light of the terror attacks in Paris, I’ve issued an executive order directing state agency heads to prevent the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Georgia,” said Deal. "Further, I call upon the Obama administration to work with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security to confirm the backgrounds of the 59 Syrian refugees recently resettled to ensure they do not pose a security threat to our citizens. Until the federal government and Congress conduct a thorough review of current screening procedures and background checks, we will take every measure available to us at the state level to safeguard the safety of Georgians.”
It's unclear whether governors have the legal authority to institute such bans.
Deal's statement called on President Barack Obama to suspend the refugee resettlement program in the United States. He also asked the administration to work with Georgia officials to confirm the backgrounds of 59 Syrian refugees already resettled.
Deal has previously argued that Georgia accepted too many refugees for its size and asked the Obama administration to limit new resettlements.
Deal was not alone in wanting to hold off on allowing refugees into the country until more security measures are put into place.
Deal joins 24 other governors who have issues similar statements over concerns of security.
Some lawmakers in Georgia are support the governor's decision.
"I absolutely think you're going to see push back all across the country, because who wants to have the state where this occurs in the United States? We don't want this to happen in Columbus. We don't want this to happen in Atlanta. So, we ought to do whatever we can to stop it from happening and the first step is to say, 'Look, we're not taking any more under this refugee resettlement program until we can come up with some kind of way to properly vet these people," State Senator Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, told FOX 5's Claire Simms.
Gov. Deal spoke with FOX 5 News early Monday evening. He said he has ordered GEMA to rescreen the 59 refugees that already arrived in the state.
Reaction to Gov. Deal's Executive Order
Georgia's borders are now closed to refugees fleeing war-torn Syria following an executive order signed on Monday by Governor Nathan Deal.
"In light of the Paris events, it just goes to show you can’t be too careful," said Deal. Georgia now joins a growing number of states banning the arrival of Syrian refugees. The order also puts those refugees already here under increased scrutiny.
“I am told we have about 59 already that have been relocated to Georgia,” said Deal, “and I've asked our homeland security department to work with the federal authorities, to once again go back and vet the fifty-nine who are already here."
But critics said refusing asylum to refugees goes against the country's core values. The Council on American-Islamic Relations told FOX 5 in a statement: "This un-American rejection of refugees, who will face significant security checks prior to entry, sends entirely the wrong message. Governors who reject those fleeing war and persecution abandon our ideals and instead project our fears to the world."
Deal said the executive order comes down to maintaining security for all Georgians.
"I certainly understand that sentiment, but on the same token I think my primary responsibility... is to keep the citizens safe,” said Deal.