White House, governors discuss Syrian refugees

Story highlights

  • A growing number of state executives say they will not welcome resettling refugees from Syria over terror concerns
  • At least 30 governors, mostly Republicans, have said they will not allow Syrian refugees in their states

Washington (CNN)White House officials held a call with governors Tuesday evening about Syrian refugees as a growing number of state executives are saying they will not welcome resettling them in their states over terror concerns.

Top staff from the White House, Department of Homeland Security and the State Department fielded questions from the governors for 90 minutes and reassured them that they were doing the most thorough vetting possible of Syrian refugees, according to brief notes from the call provided by the White House.
President Barack Obama was not on the call.
    Thirteen governors, who were not identified by the White House, asked questions and Obama Chief of Staff Denis McDonough promised to maintain open communications with state leaders, in part through the National Governors Association.
    The call with administration officials is part of "ongoing outreach and communications" with state and local officials, a White House official said. The White House "will share existing information about Syrian refugee admissions policies and security screening measures."
    At least 30 governors, mostly Republicans, have said they will not allow Syrian refugees in their states after Alabama and Michigan's leaders became the first to do so Sunday. Seven governors have committed to welcoming resettlement.
    North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory is one of the governors who has said he does not want refugees from the civil war-torn country in his state, but he told CNN he was "pleased" to get the note from the White House there would be a call.
    "We got a message from the White House for a conference call later on this evening with governors to finally communicate with us and respect our concerns and respect the people of the United States' concerns," McCrory told CNN's Kate Bolduan on Tuesday. "That's good news as opposed to being lectured to yesterday by the President. So we're all on the same team here."
    Earlier, in a conference call with reporters, senior administration officials who are leaders of the nation's refugee program explained the process and extra vetting that Syrian refugees undergo, defending the program as one of America's great traditions.
    In that call, one of the officials said they regularly interact with lawmakers and state and local leaders to answer questions and clear up misconceptions about the program.