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Barring Syrians Could Cost U.S. States Funding for Other Refugees: U.S. Agency

2 Dec

WASHINGTON — Services to help refugees acclimate to life in the United States could be jeopardized in states where governors block Syrians, according to a letter from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Since the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris by Islamic State militants, 30 U.S. governors including in Florida, Texas and Michigan have vowed to block Syrian refugees.

They contend U.S. security screening is ineffective and could let violent extremists to sneak in among them. The Paris shootings and bombings killed 130 people and injured hundreds [L8N13P1F1].

But turning away Syrians is a violation of U.S. immigration law and could cost the states funding used to resettle refugees, according to a letter from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement seen by Reuters on Monday.

The office spends nearly $1.5 billion annually to resettle about 75,000 refugees in the United States. In 2016, that number is slated to increase to 85,000 and to 100,000 refugees in 2017.

The funding is used to help families like that of Fatima Idris, who came to Chicago in February after fleeing Syria.

After spending three years as refugees, Idris, her husband and two children were greeted at Chicago O’Hare airport by resettlement workers who took them to a new home. Case workers signed Fatima up for English classes, enrolled her 9-year-old son in school and helped her husband get a job at Target.

    “We have a good house and the people here are very kind,” Idris said.

Robert Carey, director of HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), said in the Nov. 25 letter that “states may not deny ORR-funded benefits and services to refugees based on a refugee’s country of origin or religious affiliation.”

    States doing so could face suspension or termination from funding of resettlement services in their state, it said.

    The White House on Monday said that it would communicate more frequently with governors about Syrian refugees resettled in their states.

Lavinia Limon of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants said blocking resettlement funding would cut resources to those who have recently arrived, including Iraqis admitted to the United States after supporting U.S. troops.

Nearly a third of Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have signed a letter calling on party leaders to ensure that a spending bill block federal funding to resettle refugees from Syria and nearby countries.