Prairie Politics

Brownback re-ups opposition to Syrian refugees after White House phone call

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback answers questions during an Associated interview Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, at Cedar Crest, the governor’s official residence, in Topeka, Kan.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback answers questions during an Associated interview Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, at Cedar Crest, the governor’s official residence, in Topeka, Kan. AP

Gov. Sam Brownback said a phone call with White House officials Tuesday failed to persuade him to drop his opposition to placing Syrian refugees in Kansas.

The governor was one of 34 governors to participate in a phone call with White House officials about the refugee vetting process after Brownback and other governors balked at the placement of Syrian refugees in their states.

“The White House was desperate to restore confidence in the screening process for Syrian refugees. They failed,” Brownback said in an e-mail late Tuesday night. “In the end, despite acknowledging information gaps from these failed states, the White House said it would continue to run the program as it has in the past, disregarding the concerns of Governors across the nation.”

The call lasted 90 minutes and featured officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, according to a White House news release.

“The Administration officials reiterated what the President has made abundantly clear: that his top priority is the safety of the American people,” the statement from the White House press office said. “That’s why, even as the United States accepts more refugees — including Syrians — we do so only after they undergo the most rigorous screening and security vetting of any category of traveler to the United States.”

Brownback was one of 31 governors to voice opposition to allowing Syrian refugees into their states following a terrorist attack in Paris on Friday that claimed the lives of 129 people. One of the suspects involved in the attacks is thought to have entered France posing as a refugee.

The United States plans to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees fleeing that country’s civil war into its borders next year. Brownback issued an executive order Monday instructing Kansas agencies to not cooperate with federal officials in resettling them in Kansas.

The Kansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union condemned Brownback’s order and noted that the governor had previously championed the cause of refugees as a member of the U.S. Senate.

“It is unfortunate that Gov. Brownback has capitulated to the craven politics of fear mongering on this issue. … Sadly, Gov. Brownback has turned his back on an issue in which he was once a leader,” Micah Kubic, the ACLU’s executive director in Kansas, said in a statement.

Bryan Lowry: 785-296-3006, @BryanLowry3

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