Can Governor Snyder Legally Keep Syrian Refugees Out of Michigan?

More than two dozen governors in the United States have said they will close their state’s borders to Syrian immigrants in the wake of the attacks in Paris. Worn-torn Syria has produced many refugees fleeing the violence, as well as some terrorists ready to execute horrific plans for mass murder. Concern that someone in the latter category may attempt to come to Michigan helped lead governors such as Snyder to say he was halting visas for Syrians for the time being.

Snyder’s statement over the weekend said:

Michigan is a welcoming state and we are proud of our rich history of immigration. But our first priority is protecting the safety of our residents… Given the terrible situation in Paris, I’ve directed that we put on hold our efforts to accept new refugees until the U.S. Department of Homeland Security completes a full review of security clearances and procedures.”

But is that within Snyder’s legal rights as a governor? Not exactly, says U.S. Constitutional Law Professor Richard Primus of the University of Michigan. Primus joins Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson to discuss the law.

Primus tells CBS:

Immigration law is federal… States are not supposed to engage in foreign relations or in diplomacy. States can do things that make themselves attractive or unattractive as destinations for immigrants….But [the state of Michigan] could not, for example, say, ‘We disapprove of the government of Myanmar, and so we boycott Myanmar as Michigan.’ That’s the federal government’s job, and when states have tired to do things like that, the courts have said, ‘No way.’”

 

Image credit: Michigan Municipal League / CC

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