Political Notes – On second thought, forget that order to keep out Syrian refugees

[private]Gov. Nathan Deal is heeding the advice of state government’s top legal counsel and standing down from his earlier order that state agencies deny food stamps and other government benefits to Syrian refugees that come to Georgia.

“Based on the Official Opinion of Attorney General dated December 30, 2015, Executive Order 11.16.15.02, halting the involvement of State agencies in accepting refugees from Syria for resettlement in the State of Georgia, is hereby rescinded,” said an executive order signed Monday by the governor.

Thus ended a short-lived pushback against the move of Syrian refugees to Georgia, an effort that was prompted by the November terrorist attacks in Paris.

Deal demanded that the federal government not resettle Syrian refugees here and instructed state agencies not to accept food stamp applications from them. Republican governors in other states, including Greg Abbott in Texas, issued similar orders.

Even after Deal told the Obama administration not to send any more Syrian refugees to the state, Syrian families continued to be resettled here.

Attorney General Sam Olens issued an opinion shortly before New Year’s Day that said Deal could not legally deny federally-funded government benefits to the refugees or exclude them simply because they happened to come from Syria.

“I am unaware of any law or agreement that would permit a state to carve out refugees from particular countries from participation in the refugee resettlement program, no matter how well-intentioned or justified the desire to carve out such refugees might be,” Olens wrote in his letter to Deal.

“Accordingly, it is my official opinion that both federal law and the State’s agreement to act as the state refugee resettlement coordinator prevent the State from denying federally-funded benefits to Syrian refugees lawfully admitted into the United States,” Olens said.

In Clarkston, where many refugee families end up finding homes, Mayor Ted Terry welcomed Deal’s action.

“Now that we have gotten past the political rhetoric portion of the Syrian refugee issue, I look forward to a more inclusive conversation with the governor on policy solutions to keep the homeland safe from attack,” Terry said.

Emergency counties

Although he rescinded his executive order regarding refugees, Gov. Nathan Deal has continued to sign orders designating a state of emergency for several counties that were hit by flooding during the torrential rainfalls of the last 10 days of December.

Deal now has declared states of emergency in Gordon, Macon, Towns, Troup, Wilkes, Fannin, Gilmer and Pickens counties.

Jim Butterworth, the director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security (GEMA/HS), is coordinating the state’s response efforts in areas with widespread flooding, which include the Department of Transportation, the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Natural Resources.

Obama’s gun control plans

President Barack Obama was scheduled to meet with federal law enforcement officials Monday as he considered executive orders that would place more federal controls over the sales of firearms, including registration requirements for gun dealers and expanded background checks at gun shows.

If these orders are implemented, they would conflict with several of the provisions in Georgia’s gun carry law — enacted two years ago — that removes many restrictions on firearms and makes it legal to carry weapons in more public places.

Obama’s plan, as is usually the case in today’s polarized political environment, was praised by gun control advocates and condemned by gun carry supporters.

“This president is a petulant child,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said in a Sunday TV appearance. “The fact is, if he wants to make changes to these laws, go to Congress and convince the Congress that they’re necessary. But this is going to be another illegal executive action which I’m sure will be rejected by the courts.”

“Since Congress has failed to take action, we have made specific recommendations for how the White House can independently take action and hold high-volume sellers accountable for fueling the black market for guns that endangers our communities,” said John Feinblatt, the president of Everytown for Gun Safety.

“We are hopeful that this meeting will result in meaningful executive orders that will save American lives from gun violence,” Feinblatt said.

© 2016 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Barack Obama , flooding , gun control , Nathan Deal , Sam Olens , state of emergency , Syrian refugees