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Scott Walker refugees

Gov. Scott Walker

BEAVER DAM — Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday defended his plan to not welcome Syrian refugees into Wisconsin, saying the Obama administration’s handling of the Paris terrorist attacks shows it can’t be trusted to ensure the refugees are not a threat on U.S. soil.

Walker, speaking to reporters after a local Chamber of Commerce event here, blasted President Barack Obama’s administration for what he characterized as an intelligence failure in the lead-up to the Paris attacks earlier this month, which left 130 dead.

The Islamic State terrorist group, known as ISIS or ISIL, claimed responsibility. The group controls part of Syria, which is racked by a civil war that has driven millions of refugees out of the country.

“The president himself said ISIS was contained and hours later, there was an attack on Paris. How did they not know about that?” Walker said Wednesday. “What kind of intelligence do we have that doesn’t allow the president of the United States to know that there’s a threat on a major global city like Paris?

The Obama administration has pledged to accept about 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next 12 months.

Walker said last week that Wisconsin would not offer any help for new Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris attacks. At least 26 other governors have made similar pronouncements in their states.

The ACLU of Indiana has sued that state’s governor, Republican Mike Pence, for taking similar action. ACLU of Indiana legal director Ken Falk said he expects similar lawsuits to be filed against some of those states.

Governors can’t legally stop refugees from coming to their state, as the process of resettling them is done by the federal government. But Walker said he has directed state officials not to assist in any federal effort to bring Syrian refugees here.

In speeches last week, Obama lashed out at the governors and lawmakers who want to halt the U.S. efforts to help Syrian refugees, saying he “cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric that’s been coming out of here during the course of this debate.”

There’s been no indication the U.S. State Department plans to bring Syrian refugees to Wisconsin. The department has said the refugees would be spread nationwide, with many going places where they have family or cultural connections, such as Detroit, New York, Chicago or Los Angeles.

Walker, a Republican, had a short-lived bid to succeed Obama as president before abruptly ending his campaign in September.


Mark Sommerhauser covers state government and politics for the Wisconsin State Journal.