Georgia's governor just walked back his order to reject Syrian refugees

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Syrian refugees will be accepted by the state of Georgia, governor Nathan Deal said yesterday, after the state's attorney general issued an opinion that excluding them would be illegal, The Associated Press reports.

Deal was among 31 state governors who said they would not accept Syrian refugees following the Paris terrorist attacks carried out by agents claiming allegiance to the Islamic State in November.

"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," Deal said in November, ordering state agencies not to cooperate with federal and non-profit agencies trying to place Syrians in Georgia. He also called for additional background checks for the 59 Syrian refugees already living in Georgia at the time.


But the refugee resettlement program is federally run, and states do not have a legal basis to deny refugees entry once they've been accepted by the United States. Georgia attorney general Sam Olens' opinion re-affirms that states can't turn away Syrians who have been accepted after going through the rigorous refugee vetting process.

“It is my official opinion that both federal law and the State’s agreement to act as the state refugee resettlement coordinator prevent the State from denying federally-funded benefits to Syrian refugees lawfully admitted into the United States,” Olens wrote in his opinion, which he issued last week.

The federal government has committed to accepting 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of this fiscal year.

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