Alaska Gov. Bill Walker will not fight the federal government’s attempts to help Syrian refugees resettle in the United States, his office announced Tuesday.
Walker said he made the decision following a 90-minute conference call between governors, the White House, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State Department. The call was coordinated by the National Governors Association as a way to provide them information on the refugee resettlement process.
“My highest concern is the safety of all Alaskans, and I appreciate the work being done by Catholic Social Services to help refugees settle in our state and become valuable members of our community,” Walker said in a statement. “I am committed to working with the federal government to ensure the highest level of safety for the citizens of Alaska and the United States, and I want to make sure Alaska officials play a role in refugee relocations efforts in our state.”
The U.S. has accepted about 2,000 refugees from the Syrian crisis. To date, none have been resettled in Alaska, according to the governor’s office, though the state receives an average of 120 refugees from war-torn countries each year.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska praised Walker’s decision Tuesday. “The children, women, and men fleeing Syria are trying to escape the same violence and chaos that we saw in Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad,” the ACLU said. “It is unfair—and factually wrong—to exploit these tragedies by blaming them on refugees.”
Walker said,”While I understand the issue of allowing refugees into our country and our state lands solely with the federal government, I will remain focused on making sure the vetting process we were briefed on today remains the most stringent refugee vetting process in the world.”