Why Georgia is powerless to stop the resettlement of Syrian refugees

Syrian refugees Mohammad and his wife, Ebtesam listen to David Redd, senior case specialist, during an orientation session. KENT D. JOHNSON/ kdjohnson@ajc.com

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Syrian refugees Mohammad and his wife, Ebtesam listen to David Redd, senior case specialist, during an orientation session. KENT D. JOHNSON/ kdjohnson@ajc.com

Another Syrian refugee family has arrived in the Atlanta area, becoming the first to relocate to Georgia from their war-torn nation since Gov. Nathan Deal joined more than two dozen of his counterparts in vowing to halt their resettlement.

Mohammad, Ebtesam and their four-year-old son's arrival in Georgia highlights how, despite the political rhetoric, states are powerless to stop that resettlement process, which is overseen by the federal government. And Deal — who has cited security concerns in the wake of last month's Paris attacks — indicated he wasn't even aware the family had arrived in Georgia.

Their arrival also raises the possibility of a legal showdown. The Deal administration has ordered state employees not to process applications for benefits — including food stamps — for new Syrian refugees coming to Georgia. That has triggered a sharp warning from the Obama administration, which told Georgia it must rescind its order to comply with federal law.

Mohammad and Ebtesam, who asked that their full names not be published to protect relatives still living in Syria, applied to the state Thursday for food stamps and Medicaid. Both appeared eager to share their story with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Deal, meanwhile, seemed unaware that more Syrian refugees had arrived in Georgia this week.

“What’s new? We didn’t know that 59 were here,” he said, adding about the federal government: “When they don’t tell you who they are sending, they don’t tell you where they are sending them, and they don’t tell you where they are, it’s more difficult for the state to be prepared. They expect the states to simply close their eyes and pretend there’s no problem. I’m not satisfied with that.”

Read the rest of the story, written with our AJC colleague Jeremy Redmon, by clicking here.