Southwest Missouri State Representatives Bill Reiboldt and Bill Lant are part of the growing list of elected officials in Missouri who have called on Gov. Jay Nixon to make the safety of Missouri residents his top priority in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris.
“We are currently working on signing and writing letters to send to Nixon urging him to refuse to allow Syria refugees into our state,” said Reiboldt (R-Neosho).
Nixon has informed state officials that it is a federal issue and, according to Reiboldt, he has not made any effort to get a special session called to discuss what Missouri will do.
“I think sooner rather than later Nixon will join with the 30 other governors opposing or refusing refugees. Personally, I think it’s just a matter of keeping the press on,” said Lant (R-Pineville).
Both Reiboldt and Lant said they have been receiving calls from residents and business owners in their districts all day Tuesday as well as Monday concerned about getting Nixon on board with refusing to allow Syrian refugees into Missouri.
“We should not allow people into this country that would do us harm,” said Reiboldt.
“If we want to be humanitarian about this whole thing, we need to be looking for a place to keep them safe where they are, not relocating them here,” said Lant.
Missouri lawmakers can only do so much without the approval of Nixon. They are currently trying to get letters to urge Nixon to call a special session, while the other option is to have three-quarters of the House and Senate call a special session if Nixon doesn’t.
“Our most viable option right now is just to urge Nixon to do something. This is a scary thing and a scary time in our country. We need to wake up our president and governor to what is going on,” said Reiboldt.
When looking at it from a federal standpoint, the federal government alone has the power to enforce federal immigration laws, so even if all the states decide to refuse refugees the Obama administration could still trump the individual states and allow them in.
“I’m afraid of the government going over the states’ heads and sending the refugees wherever they want,” said Reiboldt.
“I think it will be an all or nothing thing. One state can’t allow them and another not because there’s no way to make sure they don’t leave that state,” said Lant.
State Rep. Sheila Solon (R-Blue Springs) is also among the list that is trying to convince Nixon. Solon has asked Nixon to utilize his authority as governor to prevent the settlement of Syrian refugees in Missouri until a comprehensive screening process can be implemented to ensure individuals with ill intent are not allowed in the state.
“While I realize our nation is a great melting pot of immigrants from all over the world, the current terrorist threat necessitates that we take every necessary precaution to ensure the safety of Missouri citizens,” said Solon.
Solon noted that one of the terrorists responsible for the attacks in Paris was a Syrian refugee who had recently located to Europe.
“The governor needs to work closely with the federal government to proactively ensure history cannot repeat itself in Missouri,” said Solon.
According to Lant, there are about 300 Somali refugees living in Noel for about three years now.
“We had several move to Noel a few years back and almost all of the children had never sat in a chair until they attended school here. It was such a huge cultural shock to them,” said Lant.
Lant said he helped Noel Elementary get a waiver from the state that allows family members to attend the school to act as a translator for the children to help them learn.
“According to the mayor of Noel, I have been told that they have not been a threat and have not caused any trouble since their arrival,” said Lant.
“In all of this God hears our prayers, and we need to not give up,” said Reiboldt.