NEW ORLEANS — Gov. Bobby Jindal asked the White House how many Syrian refugees have been resettled in Louisiana, saying he wanted that figure and other information “in hopes that the night of horror in Paris is not duplicated here.”
Jindal’s letter to the White House on Saturday came the same day that the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for attacks that killed 129 people and wounded 350 in the French capital.
The question of admitting refugees from war-torn Syria has been debated for months, and Friday’s attacks raised concerns about people with ties to Islamic militants flowing across borders.
“As Governor of Louisiana, I demand information about the Syrian refugees being placed in Louisiana in hopes that the night of horror in Paris is not duplicated here,” Jindal wrote in his letter Saturday.
Fourteen Syrians have been resettled this year in Louisiana: one in Baton Rouge and the rest in New Orleans and suburban Kenner, the State Department told WWL-TV on Sunday.
A spokesman for President Barack Obama said Sunday that the administration is continuing with its plan to thoroughly vet and resettle up to 10,000 Syrian refuges in the United States in 2016. The State Department said they’ll be spread across the country.
Jindal said he wanted to know what level of background screening was made before Syrians entered the United States and what monitoring would be done once such refugees are in Louisiana.
“As Americans, we embolden freedom and opportunity to the rest of the world, but by opening up our borders and refusing to collaborate or share information with states, you are threatening that reality,” Jindal wrote. “Mr. President, in light of these attacks on Paris and reports that one of the attackers was a refugee from Syria, it would be prudent to pause the process of refugees coming to the United States.”
Authorities said a Syrian passport found near one Paris attacker had stamps from three countries along a busy migrant corridor known for lax controls. However, it was not clear whether the document was real or forged. Officials on Sunday were still trying to identify people involved in the conspiracy. They said as many as three of the seven suicide bombers were French citizens.
Both candidates for Louisiana governor, Democrat John Bel Edwards and Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter, said that the Paris attacks are a reason to pause or stop such immigration.
“President Obama’s plan to bring 10,000 Syrian refugees to the U.S. — just like his statement made a day before the Paris attacks that ISIS was ‘contained’ — is outrageous and irresponsible. That’s exactly how at least one, maybe more of the Paris terrorists got there,” Vitter said in an emailed statement Sunday. “These Syrians have already started arriving in Louisiana. That needs to stop immediately.”
Edwards, like Jindal, called for a pause rather than a halt.
“In light of the recent tragedy in Paris, it’s imperative for us to pause the influx of refugees flowing into our state without more information on the security measures in place,” he wrote.
Also Sunday, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley announced he will oppose attempts to relocate Syrian refugees to the state.