Tenn. lawmakers divided on Syrian refugee crisis

JACKSON, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam said he is asking the federal government to stop sending Syrian refugees to Tennessee until states can become more of a partner in the vetting process. “This is the No. 1 topic in Nashville right now,” Sen. Ed Jackson, R-Jackson, said. Jackson spoke via telephone Tuesday from Nashville and said he supports the governor‘s request to suspend placement of Syrian refugees in Tennessee. “We do not know what their background is, what their intentions are when they come here,” Jackson said. Rep. Johnny Shaw, D-Bolivar, said he does not think everyone should be turned away. “If I’m following Christ, what would he do?” Shaw said. “I think Christ would let them in. I think Christ would feed them. I think he would clothe them.” But Shaw said Syrian refugees need to be vetted and screened before entering the country. “If someone looks suspicious, sure, hold them over, but you’ve got babies. You’ve got honest moms who need to feed their kids who are hungry,” Shaw said. Jackson said the state senate sent letters to Washington recommending they suspend the refugee program until the country comes up with a good vetting process. “We do need to be sure that we’re not letting people in that will want to do harm,” Jackson said. State lawmakers said the issue could come back up when they return to Nashville in January. The Tennessee Office for Refugees State Coordinator Holly Johnson said the state has settled fewer than 50 Syrian refugees since her office took over the process in 2008.

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