DETROIT (AP) — The mayors of Detroit and Austin said Monday they are welcoming Syrian refugees despite pushback by their states' Republican governors following the deadly attacks in Paris.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said his city can support 50 Syrian families annually for the next three years and is "moving down that road." Mayor Steve Adler said Austin has accepted three Syrian refugees in the past two years and another is coming.
The Democrats spoke during a White House-arranged conference call, a week after numerous Republican governors spoke out against federal refugee policies.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has instructed refugee-resettling organizations to stop helping Syrians. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who has lobbied federal officials for refugees and immigrants, urged a pause in the resettlement program until security concerns are addressed.
Duggan, who discussed refugee issues with Obama administration officials last month during a two-day Washington trip, said he remains comfortable with the refugee-vetting process. He said the city has vacant housing that could accommodate refugees, as well as support agencies and a large Syrian and Middle Eastern community in the surrounding area.
He said all mayors are "conscious of this terrorist threat," which is "very real." But he called accepting refugees a "very human issue." Providing "refuge" to victims of terror, he said, "is what this country is all about."
"We stand in Detroit prepared to do our share," he added.
Snyder has tried to communicate his continued support for refugees and encouraged his GOP colleagues to maintain a welcoming tone. He said the pause he seeks need not be long, but enough to ensure that the appropriate reviews are being conducted.
Duggan did not say what effect Snyder's call for a delay might have on Detroit's plans. The Associated Press requested additional comment from a Duggan spokesman.
As for Texas, Abbott has said since last week that he's keeping Texas safe by moving to refuse Syrians refugees and that his reading of federal law says he has the authority to do so — even though legal experts disagree.
Adler agreed with Duggan that refugees are terror victims themselves. Adler added that refugee resettlement organizations in Austin aren't sure what effect Abbott's order will have, but the mayor said he's been told nothing would change immediately.
"Everyone is just waiting to see what happens," he said.
The call also featured former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, who described refugee screening as a "comprehensive, multi-layered, exhaustive process" that typically takes up to two years but can be longer. Refugees from Syria and Iraq, he added, go through an additional security check.