Capitol & State

Obama responds to Idaho Gov. Otter on refugee program

The Obama administration has responded to Idaho’s Gov. Butch Otter and 29 other governors, all but one Republican, who called for a halt to U.S. refugee resettlement following the Nov. 13 Paris terrorist attacks.

A letter signed by Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson outlines the “rigorous security vetting process” for refugee applicants, particularly those fleeing the conflict in Syria. Refugees, they write in the letter, undergo the “most robust screening process for any category of individuals” seeking admission to the country.

Besides outlining security measures taken, the two secretaries affirm the administration’s “modest commitment” to increase the number of Syrian refugees to at least 10,000 this fiscal year. They note that Canada has committed to accepting 25,000 refugees, and that France, despite the Paris attacks, remains committed to accepting Syrian refugees, which now number more than 4 million worldwide.

The majority of Syrian refugees the U.S. has and will accept are families, victims of torture, and children, the letter states, with priority to victims of violence by the Assad regime and the Islamic State. A “very small proportion” of those accepted will be single adult males, and those accepted will be at risk groups including torture survivors, LGBT individuals and those with disabilities.

You can read the full letter here.

Gov. Otter’s Nov. 16 letter to President Obama is here.

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