Jessica Hill / AP

Connecticut welcomes Syrian refugees after Indiana refuses them

Governors have attempted to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees in more than two dozen states

A family that fled war-torn Syria in 2011 was welcomed Wednesday to its new home of Connecticut after Indiana officials objected to plans for the refugees to resettle in their state.

The married couple and their 5-year-old son had been living as refugees in Jordan and been waiting three years to resettle in the United States. They were scheduled to arrive in Indianapolis Thursday but were diverted when Gov. Mike Pence ordered state agencies to halt resettlement activities after the deadly attacks in Paris.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he personally greeted the family upon their arrival Wednesday in New Haven.

"I have to say they were absolutely wonderful and charming folks," Malloy said at a news conference. "I told them that people in the United States are generous and good people but sometimes things happen elsewhere that cause people to forget about their generosity, forget about their native warmth and spirit."

Indiana is among the more than half of states, most of them with Republican governors, that have objected to the arrival of the Syrian immigrants. The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration sent letters Tuesday to Exodus Refugee Immigration Inc. in Indianapolis and Catholic Charities Indianapolis saying plans to accept two Syrian families should be halted.

Carleen Miller, Exodus Refugee's executive director, said she doesn't believe the state has the power to stop the resettlements but thought she had no choice but to find another place for the refugees to live with their arrival imminent.

"I did not want this family to be put through any more scrutiny or drama," she said. "Would I have wanted to have more time to push back and say that this is not constitutional, that refugees can go to any state that they want because they're admitted to the U.S., not into a state? Yes. But this was a really urgent situation and I needed to make a decision on behalf of the families."

Pence, a Republican, said Tuesday he believes states can stop refugees from relocating and that it was appropriate to do so after reports that a Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the Paris attackers.

None of the eight attackers who killed 129 people in a series of bomb and shooting attacks in the French capital last week have been identified as Syrian. Investigators have so far only identified the culprits as being French.

"We're very confident that we have the legal authority to suspend the resettlement program relative to Syrian refugees in the state of Indiana and I think it is the proper course," he said.

The second family, which has children ages 2 and 1, is scheduled to arrive in Indianapolis on Dec. 10 and be placed by Catholic Charities Indianapolis. Heidi Smith, director of refugee services for Catholic Charities Indianapolis, said the organization is waiting for guidance from the State Department and the national organizations that oversee the program, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Smith said the family scheduled to arrive in December is just the second her organization has handled. She said a family of five arrived in October.

Malloy said he felt the need to tell the couple they were coming to a country where most of the population came from another place. He said told them about how his own family originally came to the U.S. from Ireland about 100 years ago.

"They know that they've been diverted. They know that they were unwelcomed in another state," Malloy said. "We're not in the position to take everybody from Syria, but Connecticut should take its share."

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press

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