Kansas Becomes the Latest State to Freak Out Over Syrian Refugees

Kansas Gov. Sam BrownbackChris Neal/Topeka Capital-Journal/AP

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback announced on Tuesday that Kansas is withdrawing from the federal government’s refugee resettlement program over concerns that Syrian refugees could be security threats.

“Because the federal government has failed to provide adequate assurances regarding refugees it is settling in Kansas, we have no option but to end our cooperation with and participation in the federal refugee resettlement program,” Brownback said in a press release.

Brownback had already issued an executive order in November stating that “no department, commission, board, or agency of the government of the State of Kansas shall aid, cooperate with, or assist in any way the relocation of refugees from Syria to the State of Kansas.” Tuesday’s announcement would apply to refugees from any country. But while the move sounds drastic, it’s mostly a symbolic act that will have little on-the-ground impact for refugees or public safety.

For one, pulling out of the federal resettlement program doesn’t mean refugees won’t be allowed to live in Kansas. While Indiana and other states have tried to bar Syrians from entering their borders, they aren’t actually able to do so. Like any other visa holders, refugees are able to go anywhere in the United States they’d like. It also doesn’t mean that support for refugees who are currently living in Kansas or may move there will dry up. The funds that state agencies use for refugee aid are almost entirely federal money, and the Department of Health and Human Services retains control over the funds even if state employees or agencies don’t take part. In those cases, Health and Human Services simply appoints another organization to administer the money. “This is the situation in some other states, usually because their resettlement program is very small,” says Stacie Blake, the director of government and community relations at the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, one of the nonprofit groups that resettles refugees. “The money is not ‘lost.'”

According to data from the State Department, only five Syrians have settled in Kansas since October last year.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest