Washington: A family of Syrian refugees accepted into the United States has been re-routed after the governor of Indiana objected to them coming to his state, officials have said.
A non-governmental resettlement agency had planned to send the family of three, selected from a UN refugee camp in the Middle East and vetted by US security agencies, to start a new life in Indianapolis.
But after Indiana's Governor Mike Pence joined the two dozen state leaders refusing to accept Syrians for fear that violent Islamist infiltrators are concealed among them, the agency re-directed them to Connecticut yesterday.
Spokesman John Kirby said the US State Department respected the NGO's decision to re-route the family, but made it clear that the federal government did not agree with state governments blocking refugee settlement.
"Obviously," he said, "we want to uphold our values as an immigrant nation. And we want to see communities around the country -- and there are some 180 that routinely welcome refugees -- we want to see that continue.
"So, is it optimal to re-route based on concerns expressed by one or other state? No, that's not."
Kirby said the US mood had changed because of a "very strident and in some cases hyperbolic reaction" to last week's murderous attacks in Paris, and defended the vetting process that potential refugees undergo.
Some 187 Syrians have been admitted to the United States since the start of the fiscal year on October 1, a tiny fraction of the 10,000 President Barack Obama has said he wants to admit over the 12-month period.
It is also a small fraction of the total US refugee resettlement program, still the world's largest despite public concern about immigration from the Islamic world.
"The program has admitted 785,000 refugees in the 14 years since 9/11," Kirby said.
"Of those, only about a dozen have been arrested or removed from the United States due to terrorism concerns that existed prior to their resettlement in the United States. And none of them were Syrian."