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Nevada Lawmakers Join Chorus Opposing Syrian Refugees

Several GOP lawmakers in Nevada are urging Governor Brian Sandoval to stand with other Republican-led states in turning away Syrian refugees. Reno Public Radio's Julia Ritchey reports.

Senator Dean Heller issued an open letter on Monday encouraging the governor to reject Syrian migrants from being relocated to Nevada until it is clear that the state would be protected from terror threats.

U.S. Representative Joe Heck of Nevada's third congressional district also signed onto a letter asking for a suspension in admitting new refugees.

Nearly two dozen governors have expressed opposition to accepting refugees in light of the terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday. At least one of the perpetrators of that plot was believed to have entered the country with a Syrian passport.

The Obama administration has said that it intends to allow up to 10,000 refugees from Syria into the country.

Text of Sen. Heller's letter to Gov. Sandoval: "Dear Governor Sandoval, Like you, I hold the responsibility to ensure the safety of Nevadans above all else. I write to you today to share my concern for the safety of Nevadans as it relates to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) carried out by the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and request that you reject further acceptance of Syrian refugees under this program until certain questions about its effectiveness are answered. Our state and nation are facing increased threats from extremists like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), especially in light of the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris, France. As our nation looks to combat terrorism, I believe we must do what we can to reduce these threats and ensure Las Vegas, Reno, and other parts of the state are secure. However, I have serious concerns about the effectiveness of the USRAP program in ensuring the safety of our nation and believe that there are many questions that still need to be answered about the program before the further issuance of refugee status. ISIS may use such a program to reach U.S. soil to carry out attacks on Americans, and I want to ensure Nevada, given its status as a tourist destination with over 40 million visitors annually, is protected. That is why, through Congressional oversight, I have sent a letter to the State Department and DHS asking for clarification on the verification requirements during the USRAPprocess, the number and demographics of Syrian refugees currently admitted under this program in Nevada and across the nation, and what measures are taken to thoroughly vet every applicant for ties to terrorism. While I recognize the merits of assisting refugees during a time of crisis, I also need assurances that the safety of Nevadans will not be compromised as a result of accepting refugees. Unfortunately, at this time, there are too many unanswered questions about the effectiveness of this program and ultimately the number of Syrian refugees who may have come to our state after being resettled elsewhere in the U.S. Until my questions have been sufficiently answered by DHS and the State Department and I believe that this program no longer presents a threat to Nevadans, I encourage you to reject any further acceptance of Syrian refugees in the State of Nevada. The safety of Nevadans should be our top priority, and the Administration must prove to Congress and the American public that the USRAP process is working in Nevadans’ best interests before committing to bringing in additional Syrian refugees. Again, I appreciate your attention to this serious matter as we work toward the shared goal of ensuring the safety of Nevada. Sincerely, DEAN HELLER U.S. Senator

Julia Ritchey is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.