Maine Governor Paul LePage officially removed Maine from the federal government's refugee settlement program in a letter to President Obama Friday, writing that he has "lost confidence in the federal government's ability to safely and responsibly run the refugee program." This makes Maine the third state to pull out of the federal program, joining Texas and Kansas.
That America is unable to properly screen incoming refugees for terrorist leanings is a common talking point circulated by conservative commentators and politicians, including Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. In reality, refugees applying for asylum in America have to be screened by at least four federal agencies, including the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, while also undergoing various background checks. It is among the most stringent immigration screening processes in the world.
In his letter, LePage cites one case: an Iranian refugee, who had been settled in Maine in 2009, who was radicalized in Maine and died on the battlefield in Lebanon fighting for ISIS last year. The man, Adnan Fazeli, was reported to federal authorities by friends and family members. LePage says there have been other cases but does not cite them; he also accuses refugees of "welfare fraud," a recurring topic for him that has not proven to be widely accurate.
LePage's letter to Obama does not bar refugees from being settled in Maine—that's up to the federal government, but it does preclude state officials from assisting with the process. Among other things, LePage is known for stirring up racial tensions in his state. Earlier this year, he blamed the state's opioid epidemic on theoretical black drug dealers from Connecticut and New York named "D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty" and claimed that these supposed drug dealers impregnate white Maine women when not selling their wares.
He keeps a book of all the drug dealers arrested in the state and claimed multiple times that it was full of black people. When that list was obtained by the ACLU of Maine through a public records request, it was revealed that most of the alleged drug dealers were white.
In a statement about LePage's letter to President Obama, the ACLU of Maine said, "Thankfully, the governor does not have the power to stop refugees from coming to Maine. Maine is a welcoming state, and we will continue to welcome refugees with open arms."
Read LePage's letter here:
Sam Stecklow is the Weekend Editor for Fusion.