Senator Colbeck’s Testimony on SCR 22 and Syrian Refugee Crisis
January 26, 2016
The primary purpose of government is to secure the rights of the governed. That is clearly stated in our Declaration of Independence.
Our MI Constitution goes on to say in Article I, Section 1 that “All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their equal benefit, security and protection.”
Clearly, the security of our citizens is the number one priority of government be it at the federal, state, or local level.
That is why I and my fellow sponsors of SCR 22 applaud Governor Snyder’s action of November 16, 2015 when he effectively “hit the pause button” regarding the acceptance of Syrian Refugees in MI in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, France.
First, let me be clear that Michigan has been and will continue to be a welcoming state to those fleeing oppression or war, and those seeking to assimilate into our country in order to make a new life for themselves and their families in America.
However, it is clear that we also need to be vigilant about the safety of our citizens in the wake of even more aggressive and blatant attacks against innocent civilians by terrorist groups.
The drafting of SCR 22 occurred right before the Christmas break in the wake of a briefing on the process for screening refugees that would settle in Michigan. Many of us who attended that briefing did not leave the room feeling comfortable that the security of our citizens was a federal priority or even possible with the current screening process for refugees.
To make matters worse, it is clear that the refugee resettlement process is only one of many pathways for terrorists to infiltrate our borders and put our citizens at risk. Among the other pathways are students who overstay their visas and the persistent issue of illegal immigration.
The focus of SCR 22 upon Syrian Refugees is a direct response to the stated plans of President Obama to resettle 10,000 Syrian Refugees in America. We all have seen the atrocities such as beheadings, crucifixion, immolation, and rapes committed around the world in the name of ISIS. Sometimes we forget that ISIS stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. Al-Sham is Arabic for the country of Syria. It is irresponsible for us to condone federal policies that would increase the risk of these atrocities being committed in our own backyard.
What can the state do to pause Syrian refugee resettlement in MI until we are certain our safety concerns are being addressed?
Immigration policy is clearly in the jurisdiction of the federal government. The federal government, however, depends heavily upon state agencies and other state resources to provide services to refugees. These services include Medicaid, Food Assistance, TANF, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
The appropriation of the funds from the federal government to our state agencies and many faith-based resettlement organizations to support these services is under the governance authority of state elected officials. Per figures provided by the Senate Fiscal Agency, it is estimated that for every 100 refugees resettled in MI, $960,000 of Gross Appropriation is required including an ongoing $239,000 of GF/GP Appropriations specifically from state resources. The federal government could simply dedicate 100% of the funding needs with their own resources to implement their policies in a given state, but that would not be an efficient use of limited resources.
In summary, the state could make it difficult for the federal government to implement their policies, but we do not have the authority to stop them from implementing their policies if they seek to do so without state resources.
Why is SCR 22 needed then?
First, let’s be clear. SCR 22 is non-binding. In basic terms, it is simply a letter to be sent to elected officials denoting the policy position of one of the states in our union of states called the United States of America. Think of it as a letter from the elected officials of Michigan to the elected officials in DC.
Having said this, SCR 22 can be used as a means of influencing policy in DC. Each State Senator in MI represents over 250,000 citizens. If the resolution would earn the support of at least 20 Senators, the policy recommendations in SCR 22 reflect the voices of over 5M citizens in MI. In concert with the voices of the 31 other states whose governors have made declarations similar to Governor Snyder’s pause button statement, SCR 22 provides a means of influencing policy decisions by the federal government.
Furthermore, SCR 22 provides a framework for discussing the terrorist threat in MI and, in particular, the impact of refugees from regions of the world dominated by the Islamic State in Syria otherwise known as ISIS.
America has been and always will be a nation of immigrants. My great grandparents came from Poland, Ukraine, Great Britain, and Germany. When my ancestors settled in America, they were not chanting Death to America on their way to Ellis Island. They wanted to be Americans. They loved America. They were not seeking to fundamentally transform America.
We now face a unique situation with Syrian Refugees. How do we separate those who love America from those who hate America? Our FBI Director Coomey has stated publically that we do not have sufficient information to tell the good guys from the bad guys yet our own President seeks to open the door to refugees from a region of the world where a significant number of ISIS devotees do chant Death to America on a regular basis. These ISIS devotees are seeking to abuse the very principles of freedom and inclusion that we cherish as Americans in order to fundamentally transform America. It is time to take our fingers out of our ears and recognize that we are not dealing with a harmless JV squad when it comes to the ISIS threat. This threat is centered in Syria. We need to start taking this threat to our public safety seriously before it is too late. It is for this reason that I urge your support for SCR 22.