Protecting Oklahoma

No more Syrians into Oklahoma?

With the urging of state and federal lawmakers, Governor Mary Fallin is asking President Barack Obama to suspend accepting Syrian refugees into the United States in the wake of deadly terror attacks in Paris being linked to the Islamic State.

“The Obama administration needs to assure the public that the background checks they are doing are rigorous, and that American lives will not be endangered in the process,” said Fallin. “Until then, I call on the Obama administration to suspend any Syrian refugees into the United States. During these uncertain times, the Obama administration needs to make sure those entering the United States are not terrorists.”

During a U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing last week, FBI Director James Comey said there is a risk bringing anybody in from the outside, but especially from a conflict zone like Syria.

“The American people need to be assured that national security will not be compromised,” said Fallin. “We must maintain a strict verification process against possible terrorists.”

The governor said she has confidence in the two refugee processing affiliates in the state. Catholic Charities in Oklahoma City and Catholic Charities in Tulsa have the responsibility of placing refugees in the state.

Since 2012, three refugees from Syria have been placed in Jenks, according to information from Catholic Charities in Tulsa and the U.S. Department of State.  The three, ages 50, 44 and 14, were brought to Jenks to live with family members.

Catholic Charities in Tulsa and in Oklahoma City predominantly only assist refugees seeking family reunification.

“Oklahomans have welcomed refugees escaping religious persecution for many years and will continue to do so,” Fallin said.

According to the U.S. Department of State’s latest report, no refugees from Syria were admitted to Oklahoma during October. The State Department’s Refugee Processing Center reported 54 refugees came to Oklahoma during October. All were from Burma.

Rep. John Bennett, R – Sallisaw, said the threat to Oklahoma is real.

“According to the New York Times article on October 21, 2015, there have been dozens of Syrian refugees settled in Jenks, Oklahoma, since 2012,” said Bennett.  “What’s disturbing is that when I contacted the Jenks Police Department about this issue, they advised that the New York Times’ article was the first time anyone in their office knew about these resettlements.”

Bennett called on Fallin “to immediately suspend any current plans to relocate Syrian refugees in Jenks or elsewhere in Oklahoma and to identify those that have arrived under the relocation program since 2012.

“The states of Michigan and Alabama have suspended their relocation efforts until the U.S. Department of Homeland Security can perform a top-down review of security clearances and procedures to ensure that those who are entering our country as refugees are not a threat to our safety.”

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, agreed with the suspension of immigrants from Syria.

“In light of the attacks in Paris, I call on the Obama administration to put a pause in accepting Syrians as refugees into the United States until Congress can review and conduct appropriate oversight of the State Department’s vetting process. Accepting refugees is an important and historical practice of our nation, but the Syrian refugee situation is atypical due to ISIS’s attempts to exploit the crisis and concerns over the validity of Syrian passports.

“We saw this danger first hand with Ahmad Al Mohammad who participated in the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and whose passport and fingerprints matched a person who passed through Greece as a Syrian refugee. With ISIS releasing a video on Monday vowing its next attacks on America, this is clearly not a time for the Obama administration to increase, much less expedite, refugees being brought to our soil.”

Prior to the Obama administration adjusting its policies on Syrian refugees, Inhofe sent a letter to the president on Sept. 25 calling for a stronger vetting process of Syrian refugees and for prioritization of orphaned children and persecuted religious minority groups.

U.S. Sen. James Lankford agreed.  “While we do not yet know who is responsible, this attack has all the hallmarks of Islamic extremist terrorism,” Lankford said. “We must all stand up to the evil of terror – those who threaten freedom in America and abroad must be defeated. We do not accept their violence or their views; we reject their tactics, and we remind them of our resolve.”

Lankford, R-Oklahoma, is on the Intelligence Committee and Homeland Security Committee and is staying in close contact with other members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Lankford said he wants Americans to know that as of last weekend, there was no credible threat to the United States.

“It’s a reminder of just what we are facing as a world right now and the real threat that exists around the world and the people that mean to do us harm,” Lankford said.