Kansas governor withdraws from Syrian refugee program

Republican Kansas Governor Sam Brownback speaks to supporters after winning re-election in the U.S. midterm elections in Topeka, Kansas, November 4, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich

By Fiona Ortiz (Reuters) - Kansas is withdrawing from plans to resettle Syrian refugees in the state after the federal government failed to provide security information on them, Republican Governor Sam Brownback said on Tuesday. Brownback said in a statement that he repeatedly asked the administration of President Barack Obama for documentation on the screening of refugees who would be relocated from Syria to Kansas. "Because the federal government has failed to provide adequate assurances regarding refugees it is settling in Kansas, we have no option but to end our cooperation with and participation in the federal refugee resettlement program," Brownback said. Kansas has received a trickle of Syrian refugees. A family of three and two men have been resettled there in the past 15 months, a spokeswoman for Brownback said by email. Obama pledged last year that the United States would take in 10,000 people fleeing war-torn Syria, under pressure from European leaders who have been inundated with refugees. But the promise came under fire from Republicans concerned that violent militants could come into the United States posing as refugees. Despite opposition from some states, the United States remains committed to admitting the promised number of Syrian refugees in the current fiscal year, which ends in September, said a State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The official said state governments can consult on the resettlement of refugees, but the program is administered by the federal government. "Decisions regarding the admissibility of refugees to the United States are made by the Department of Homeland Security after stringent security checks," the official said, noting that some refugee records are confidential. Kevin Griffis, a spokesman for the federal Health and Human Services Department, said that "refugee resettlement will continue in Kansas, coordinated by non-profit organizations.” More than 30 governors attempted to block refugees from their states, but courts and attorneys general have said that it is up to the federal government to screen refugees and settle them. U.S. officials told a congressional panel in February that the country has tightened vetting of immigrants and refugees after attacks in California and Paris, and put on hold hundreds of applications from Syrian refugees. More than four million Syrians have fled their war-torn country, according to the United Nations, which calls it the biggest refugee population from a single conflict in a generation. Almost 2 million Syrian refugees are in Turkey and hundreds of thousands live in camps in Jordan, while others have flooded Greece, according to the U.N. (Reporting by Fiona Ortiz in Chicago; Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner and Arshad Mohammed in Washington; editing by Cynthia Osterman and Andrew Hay)