Most candidates for governor mum on Cruz's refugee bill
Posted December 8, 2015
Updated December 9, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — All but one of the candidates vying for the Executive Mansion in 2016 have declined to take positions on legislation introduced Tuesday by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz that would grant governors the power to turn away refugees.
The bill would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act, giving governors the unilateral power to deny a refugee's resettlement in a state if the federal government fails, "in the sole determination of the Governor, to provide adequate assurance that the alien does not present a security risk." It would also require federal officials to notify states of a refugee's potential placement there at least 21 days before he or she arrives.
Cruz's measure comes just weeks after both Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and a potential Democratic challenger, Attorney General Roy Cooper, both backed a "pause" in the settling of Syrian refugees in North Carolina. Echoing calls from other governors, McCrory and Cooper said their comments were prompted by security concerns in the wake of the Nov. 13 Paris attacks.
As of mid-November, the state had settled 59 Syrian refugees, according to the Governor's Office. The U.S. Department of State says the screening process takes 18 to 24 months.
Ken Spaulding, the Durham lawyer challenging Cooper for the Democratic nomination, slammed Cruz's proposal and criticized McCrory and Cooper for their statements on Syrian refugees, which Spaulding said "are already extensively investigated, scrutinized and vetted."
"Playing politics with the safety, security and protection of the American people is the very reason why the people of this state and Nation do not have confidence in the politicians who are elected to help protect us from mass killings and domestic terrorism, whether it's at a Christmas party in San [Bernardino] or at a church in Charleston," Spaulding said in a statement Wednesday. "Xenophobia and ethnic discrimination do not protect our Nation or state from mass killings and domestic terrorism."
McCrory spokesman Graham Wilson refused to say Tuesday whether the governor supports Cruz's legislation, citing instead McCrory's complaint that his public safety team is "receiving little to no security clearance information" from federal officials before or during the resettlement process.
"It is hard to refuse refugees when the administration does not inform any state officials of their date of entry or location," Wilson said in an emailed statement. "That is one of the many complaints Governor McCrory has expressed with the Obama administration."
The Cooper campaign did not respond to a request Tuesday for comment on the legislation. Former GOP state lawmaker Robert Brawley, who on Wednesday announced he was challenging McCrory in the Republican primary, did not return a phone call made Wednesday afternoon.
Cruz is seeking the Republican Party's nomination for president and has earned a slight statistical edge against GOP rivals in Iowa, according to a Monmouth University poll released this week.
At a news conference alongside Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday, Cruz said his legislation will protect "the authority of governors to keep their citizens safe."
"Some 30 governors across the country have stood together with Gov. Abbott, standing together as one, saying their obligation is to protect the safety and security of the citizens of Texas and the citizens of each of the states that have elected those governors," Cruz said. "Those officials are doing their jobs."
Although the McCrory campaign has sought to raise money off the issue, he's conceded that governors don't have the power to turn refugees away from specific states.
"We do not have a Checkpoint Charlie in the state of North Carolina," McCrory said in an interview on National Public Radio's "Diane Rehm Show" last month, "and once they come in, they can go immediately to anywhere in our nation, and we don't know where they're going at this point in time."
Although Spaulding said he doesn't expect Cruz's legislation to become law, he said he would expect courts to rule it unconstitutional anyway.
"Fifty separate Governors attempting to conduct foreign policy, in and of itself, puts the people of this state and our country at more risk from potential harm," Spaulding said.