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Legislators respond to refugee issues

Lawmakers are standing behind Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter. They feel he is making the right choice in his recommendation to halt refugees coming to Idaho.

Sen. Brent Hill said, “It’s the governor’s decision and I’ll certainly follow his lead there but I don’t think he’s planning on calling a special session, no.”

After the Parisian attacks and the announcement that refugees would be entering the U.S., Otter wrote a letter to President Barack Obama.

“Instead of Congress rubber-stamping this program each year, we ask that you and Congress work with states and governors to thoroughly review this progress and how states are affected… Frustration with the federal immigration and refugee programs runs high in Idaho.”

Rep. Jeff Thompson said, “I think what we need to be worried about is security.”

“Anytime we feel attacked as a country and when there is terrorist attacks going on around the world, that’s a scary situation,” Hill said. “None of us wants to expose ourselves, our children, or our grandchildren to any unnecessary threats so it is a concern as people come in from foreign countries and always has been.”

While the recent terrorist attacks raise concerns both eastern Idaho lawmakers said it doesn’t mean we should turn our backs on those in need.

“Yes it’s a concern but we have to put it into perspective too,” Senator Hill said. “In Idaho in the last six months at least as of Nov. 16 we’ve had 35 Syrian refugees 20 of those are children.”

“Oh there’s no doubt about it, we need to help refugees, but in a safe way for our nation,” Thompson said.

“We need to be careful, we need to do everything we can to protect our own citizens and our own families but at the same time there are people that are fleeing for their lives and we need to take that into account as well,” Senator Hill said. “It’s a hard balance to find there.”

He said it’s the process by which refugees enter that needs to be looked at.

“We need to have some good screening processes in place, we haven’t been assured by our federal government that those are in place, they may be, but there’s always more that we can do,” Hill said. “I think that’s all that Governor Otter has asked for in his letter to the President.”

According to the Syria Regional Refugee Response group there are more than 4 million refugees seeking help at this time.

The Idaho 2016 legislative session will start on Jan. 11.

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