Alabama files suit against US government over refugees

Alabama officials sue US federal government for not consulting them about Syrian refugees to be settled in state

Photo by: AP (Archive )
Photo by: AP (Archive )

Alabama governor Robert Bentley speaks during an interview about state budget on February 27, 2015

Alabama state officials sued the US federal government on Thursday to force the Obama administration to provide more information on the settlement of refugees from Syria and other countries in the state.

The lawsuit, filed in US district court in Birmingham, accuses the Obama administration of violating the federal Refugee Act of 1980 by not consulting state officials about the resettlement of refugees.

"The process and manner in which the Obama administration and the federal government are executing the Refugee Reception Program is blatantly excluding the states," said Republican Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, who is among more than two dozen US governors opposing Syrian refugee intake.

Bentley stated that the lawsuit seeks to force the government to disclose information on each refugee, including medical history, and to certify that the individual does not pose a security risk.

“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," he said.

In December 2015, Texas also had filed a lawsuit to stop entry of nine Syrian refugees, but a judge dismissed the state’s request for a restraining order, calling the evidence presented "largely speculative hearsay."

In the Texas case, the US Justice Department said the refugee act requires the government to consult regularly with states about the sponsorship process and distribution among states but that it is not obligated to discuss individual resettlement in advance.

Alabama is intensifying its fight after Republican governor Nathan Deal in neighboring Georgia on Monday rescinded his own executive order seeking to stop the resettlement of Syrian refugees, because the state's attorney general ruled he lacked the authority to do so.

The Southern Poverty Law Center said Bentley lacks the authority to bar the resettlement of refugees, and added that his "grandstanding is fueling xenophobia and helping to create an environment ripe for hate and violence."

TRTWorld and agencies