Robert Bentley suing feds, alleging violations of 1980 Refugee Act

Gov Robert Bentley speaking
Robert Bentley

Gov. Robert Bentley said Thursday he has filed suit against the United States government, saying federal officials are failing to comply with a 1980 law governing the handling of foreign refugees.

Bentley says the Obama administration is out of compliance with the Refugee Act, which he contends requires a consultation with states regarding the placement of refugees before those refugees are placed within its borders.

No such consultation has occurred, Bentley said.

“On three separate occasions I have sent letters to the White House requesting information on the Refugee Reception Program in Alabama and these letters have gone unanswered,” Bentley said Thursday.

“As Governor, the Alabama Constitution gives me the sovereign authority and solemn duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of all citizens of Alabama. The process and manner in which the Obama Administration and the federal government are executing the Refugee Reception Program is blatantly excluding the states,” Bentley said.

Bentley made national headlines when he was among the first of several Republican governors to declare they would not accept refugees from war-torn Syria within their states’ borders.

According to a news release, the governor’s lawsuit asks for:

  • A declaration that the defendants have breached their consultation duties and obligations to the State of Alabama under the Refugee Act of 1980.
  • A complete file on each of the refugees to include medical history.
  • Certification that the refugees pose no security risk.
  • A declaration that the defendants may not place refugees within the state unless they have fulfilled those duties and obligations to the State of Alabama.

Bentley names a handful of federal bureaucracies as defendants in his complaint – available here – including the U.S. State Department, the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement.


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