Ricketts stands by opposition of resettlement of Syrian refugees in Nebraska

Nov. 17, 2015, 3:57 a.m. ·

At a press conference on Tuesday, Ricketts elaborated on his reasoning for Monday's letter to private refugee resettlement agencies in Nebraska. (Photo by Ben Bohall, NET News)

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Governor Pete Ricketts is not backing down in his opposition to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Nebraska.

Ricketts’ remarks at a news conference Tuesday afternoon follow a letter he sent Monday to refugee resettlement agencies in the state. In it, he urged them not to pursue resettlement of Syrian refugees in light of last Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

“We certainly don’t want to be reactive and have an incident first. We want to take proactive steps and do the best job we can to protect our citizens,” Ricketts said.

Ricketts joins a growing list of governors, predominantly Republican, promising to halt efforts to allow Syrian refugees into their states. Ricketts is requesting the federal government review its screening policies for new arrivals, by including Nebraska in the vetting process.

“Broadly, since we’re not involved at all, knowing what that vetting process is and then also participating in what that vetting process might mean for our state with regard to the individuals who would be coming here,” Ricketts said.

Ann Marie Kudlacz is executive director of the Refugee Empowerment Center in Omaha, one of the three private agencies utilized by the state in placing refugees. She says the governor’s letter might be premature, particularly since Nebraska has yet to receive any refugees from Syria’s recent mass migration.

“The Department of State and Homeland Security do need to look to confirm they’re doing all they can to properly vet the people but that doesn’t mean we need to cause widespread panic about Syrian refugees,” Kudlacz said.

According to the Refugee Act of 1980, governors cannot legally block refugees. Only the president has statutory authorization to accept foreign refugees into the United States.

Ricketts says the White House will host a conference call Tuesday consulting with several governors who have protested the placement of Syrian refugees in their states. Ricketts was scheduled to participate in the call.