Arizona Ban on Refugees

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Governor Doug Ducey has called for a ban on more refugees entering into Arizona following the brutal attacks in Paris last week. Arizona State University Law professor Paul Bender will have more on what states can and cannot do in banning refugees.

TED SIMONS: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," Governor Doug Ducey calls for a ban on new refugees into the state following Friday's attacks in Paris. A new report looks at academic growth of online charter schools. And we'll learn about a new opera based in 16th century Mexico. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon."

VIDEO: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

TED SIMONS: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Governor Doug Ducey today called for an immediate halt in accepting any new refugees in the state, this after Friday's attacks in Paris that killed at least 129 and wounded hundreds more. The governor also called on congress and the president to immediately amend federal law to provide states greater oversight and authority in accepting and placing refugees. Over a dozen other states are pledging to actively resist settlement of Syrian refugees, though Arizona is the only state to demand a halt to all new refugees. Here now to talk more about what the states can and cannot legally do when it comes to banning political refugees is ASU law professor Paul Bender. Good to see you, thanks for being here. The governor wants to halt placing any new refugees in Arizona. Not just Syrian refugees, any refugees. Can he do that?

PAUL BENDER: He can say it but he can't do it. States cannot keep people out of their states. Once you're in the United States, you have a right to travel around the country and if the federal government let you in, you have a right to go any place in the country. The states don't have borders that they can enforce. More importantly than that, who gets into the country is a federal matter that the federal government has to be in control of. If every state said we're not going to take any refugees, the president would not be able to work with other countries to divide up refugees and decide what to do. It has a direct effect on foreign policy so state don't have the right to stop it. They can't veto it. They can say they don't want them, they can tell the federal government they would rather the federal government didn't place them there, but the federal government is the one who decides where they go.

TED SIMONS: And indeed, this harkens back to the Arizona immigration case, I would imagine the court has said you can't have 50 different refugee policies.

PAUL BENDER: You can't. There's one policy and that's the federal policy.

TED SIMONS: The 1980 U.S. refugee act, the governor mentioned this, but what was that act, what does it say?

PAUL BENDER: It's very broad and it covers a lot of different subjects. The one that's most important here is it means to set up a system for the federal government placing and supporting refugees who come from other countries who need some kind of support, finding a place they can go. The federal government has money they can use to get these people to a place and support them for a while. It's all about how the federal government is supposed to do that.

TED SIMONS: Unforeseen emergencies are especially noted in this act overseas that would result in it.

PAUL BENDER: Sure, the idea is we get refugees sometimes, a lot, sometimes not so many but all the time, people are coming in asking for asylum. If the government gives someone asylum, they have to go somewhere and the government has the obligation to find a place for them where they can live and where they fit into the community and this bill is about the federal administrative process for doing that. It does say that the director of homeland security and the federal agency administering the subsection shall consult regularly, with state and local governments and private and nonprofit voluntary agencies concerning the sponsorship process. That's the thing that I think the governor is relying on. It says consult regularly. It doesn't say ask for permission when you want to.

TED SIMONS: Indeed the governor said states have the right to receive immediate consultation by the federal government per the U.S. refugee act and feds must take Arizona and state concerns into account when dealing with refugees.

PAUL BENDER: I think they should take them into account because they have to take account where this is a good place for those refugees, if they'll fit into the community but I don't think they should take account of the state's desires about immigration policy generally.

TED SIMONS: So what can states legally do? Can they deny resources? What can they do?

PAUL BENDER: Some of the governors' statements don't say keep them out. They say don't cooperate with their coming in. The state will not cooperate with the federal government in bringing them in. The extent to which the state can do that, I don't know. You have to see what they do and what area it's in and whether they're preempted. I would think that in general, the rule will work out that the states cannot prevent the federal government from placing a refugee in that state if the federal government thinks that's the best place for the refugee.

TED SIMONS: And would the states be able to -- obviously, would they be able to prevent state services going to those refugees? Would they be able to prevent private groups from assisting placing these refugees?

PAUL BENDER: No, I don't think they would be able to prevent private groups. Whether they could deny state services to these people, those are good questions. You're asking good questions, we don't have had answer. It would depend on what the service is and that stuff is not clear. You've seen it in Arizona with the driver's licenses and things like that. It's a very delicate balance. I think the most important thing is the state has no right to say we don't want this person in the country and they don't have any right to say we don't want this person in the state because they're a refugee.

TED SIMONS: And you can't enforce that. What would you have, DPS at the borders and the train stations?

PAUL BENDER: In fact, what Governor Ducey is doing is, except for the fact that I don't think he has a right to immediate consultation but he has a right to be consulted and I think every governor does and I think he puts it the right way. He just doesn't say I'm going to keep them out. He says they should ask us about it and they should, because the governor has a role in deciding how many people are coming but it's a fairly large number of people coming, the state has concerns about where they go so the consultation is fine. It will be interesting to see what the federal government does. There's 20 states have said this. Some states have said they want them but I don't think very many. So if a lot of states say that, the federal government has to decide whether we're going to listen to them, if they don't want them, we won't put them there or whether they'll say no that's not going to work. We have a lot of people, we're going to spread them around. It's not fair to have them all go to one place.

TED SIMONS: Or I would imagine if there were common sense at the helm here that maybe the process for making sure that the folks coming through are indeed political prisoners or repressed folks or refugees, maybe that has heightened to a certain degree at the federal level to make sure that no one does slip through the cracks.

PAUL BENDER: I think the federal government doesn't need to be asked by the state to do that. The federal government is concerned.

TED SIMONS: You would hope.

PAUL BENDER: Yeah, and that's very hard to do. I mean, you have all these people coming from Syria and Africa going through Greece, going into Germany and other countries. Very, very few of those people are terrorists but some people may be. So how do you tell?

TED SIMONS: So in the same sense that the states can't tell the president you can't let these folks in, the states honestly can't say vice versa, you must let these folks in. We're talking preemption here.

PAUL BENDER: Immigration policy is up to the federal government. And the federal government has the obligation to screen these people and make sure they're not dangerous people but if it lets them then, then they have the right to be in the United States and state can't say no you can't come here.

TED SIMONS: Is it kind of is similar to the Arizona U.S. immigration issue.

PAUL BENDER: It is immigration. And this is even more directly -- you see the governments are meeting and what to do with these people. These governors, what do they want the president to do, I've got to ask the governors. That's not going to work.

TED SIMONS: All right, Paul, good to have you here, thanks for joining us.

PAUL BENDER: Nice to be here.

Paul Bender : Arizona State University Law professor

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