128 Push Haslam To Change Refugee Stance

Posted at 1:51 PM, Nov 25, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-25 14:51:19-05

The Syrian Civil war and refugee crisis has sparked strong opinions on both sides of the debate on what to do next in the U.S. Tuesday, more than 100 Tennessee groups pushed Governor Haslam to continue to allow refugees into the state.

To underscore his stance President Obama quoted the words written on the Statue of Liberty.

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free. That's the spirit that makes us Americans," he said.

Just days earlier, Rep. Glen Casada (R, Thompson Station) suggested rounding up all current Syrian refugees living in Tennessee.

"I am calling for civil disobedience in order to protect the lives and the property of Tennesseans, and that has consequences," he said.

And then there's Governor Bill Haslam.

"I'm not blaming all of y'all but even the media is saying 'Haslam joins X other governors in saying don't let them in!' " he said to reporters Monday, "well that's not what I said and I think what we say matters." 

What he actually requested in his letter to the President was to pause the refugee resettlement program until the individual states can be more involved in the already lengthy vetting process.

Refugees currently go through a rigorous multi-step process to get into the U.S., which can often take years to finish.

One hundred twenty-eight Tennessee groups and leaders pushed him to take it back in a letter sent to the Governor Tuesday

"There is fear and there is hostility and I think we need to separate the two," said ACLU Tennessee Executive Director Hedy Weinberg.

The ACLU and the dozens of faith and community leaders who signed the letter said there's nothing wrong with  asking questions of the federal government and it's process for resettling refugees.

However, they said Tennessee shouldn't completely close its doors to refugees at their hour of need.

"The United States refugee resettlement program reflects the United States' highest values and aspirations to compassion, generosity and leadership," Weinberg read from the letter sent to the Governor's desk.

Haslam said the refugee crisis, in light of the recent Paris attacks, has brought the largest response from voters since he took office.

"I've never seen our people so afraid about something," the Governor said.

The letter asked him to overcome that fear.

"I think all of us expect that those we elect are leaders and are not engaged in fear-mongering and are not engaged in discriminatory practices," Weinberg said.

The groups behind the letter range from churches to civic groups. And its writers hope the Governor will change course, instead encouraging Tennessee to remain a safe-haven for refugees worldwide.