Legal experts say states lack authority to ban Syrian refugees

DETROIT (AP) — Even though several U.S. governors, including Illinois’ governor Bruce Rauner, are threatening to stop efforts to allow Syrian refugees into their states, an immigration expert says the governors have no legal authority to do so.

The governors are responding to heightened concerns that terrorists might use the refugees as cover to sneak across borders. But the head of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigration says that under the Refugee Act of 1980, governors can’t legally block refugees from settling in their communities.

Rauner said Monday that Illinois will consider its legal options pending a review of U.S. Department and Homeland Security’s acceptance and security processes. Rauner is one of several U.S. governors who say they will stop allowing Syrian refugees into their states after Friday night attacks in Paris left at least 129 people dead.

Rauner says Illinois must balance its tradition of welcoming refugees while “ensuring the safety and security of our citizens.” The state’s Department of Human Services says 131 Syrian refugees have settled in Illinois since 2011.