@NCCapitol

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Lawmakers back McCrory on Syrian refugees

Posted November 18, 2015 7:28 p.m. EST
Updated November 18, 2015 7:49 p.m. EST

— A committee headed by the legislature's most powerful lawmakers has backed Gov. Pat McCrory's call to stop resettlement of Syrian refugees in North Carolina.

The apparently unanimous voice vote – no member audibly voted no – came at the end of a seven-plus-hour meeting of the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations, a committee chaired by House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger.

Although the vote carries little formal weight, it adds to the growing list of congressmen, political allies and even political foes in the state backing the governor's call for a pause. Attorney General Roy Cooper, the Democratic front-runner to challenge McCrory in 2016, also backed the governor's efforts to slow resettlement.

Jimmy Broughton, McCrory's deputy chief of staff, told lawmakers that a conference call with White House officials did little to allay fears that the federal government could not thoroughly vet refugees.

"The difficult of background checks was again confirmed on the call last night," Broughton said.

Wednesday's meeting plowed little new ground on the refugee issue. Lawmakers queried state officials about how much they knew about those being resettled and how much of a role the state played.

"Our role really begins once resettlement has happened," said Sherry Bradsher, deputy director of North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services.

The state passes through federal dollars to nonprofit resettlement agencies and helps coordinate the provision of benefits, she said.

"So, in other words, nobody can tell me whether the state is being consulted about whether it's appropriate for these people to be settled in our state," asked Sen. Jim Davis, R-Macon.

"As far as safety? No," said Frank Perry, secretary of the Department of Public Safety. "The collaboration we're looking for doesn't exist."

Perry said that some federal agencies don't share information about refugees with each other, much less the states.

"That's felony-level sad," he said.

Until more information is forthcoming, Perry and Broughton said, McCrory would likely continue to oppose resettlement.