The ACLU of Alaska commends Alaska Governor Bill Walker for not giving in to fear-mongering and joining the 29 other state leaders who have announced bans on Syrian refugees entering their states.

We issued the following statement, which may be attributed to Executive Director Joshua A. Decker:

“The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska is pleased that Governor Bill Walker has refused to use the tragedy in Paris to govern through fear-mongering. Unlike some other states’ governors, who have announced that they will try to bar Syrian refugees from their states, Alaska’s governor has courageously led.

“As Governor Walker correctly pointed out, state leaders do not have the authority to turn refugees away: immigration policy is a federal issue and federal officials make those decisions. Governors who are attempting to do so are grandstanding, and their actions speak to their lack of understanding and empathy for the ordeal that Syrian refugees face daily.

“The children, women, and men fleeing Syria are trying to escape the same violence and chaos that we saw in Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad. It is unfair—and factually wrong—to exploit these tragedies by blaming them on refugees. And it is legally wrong because it violates our state and country’s founding values: Alaskans are proud of being a welcoming state. Three of the top ten most diverse zip codes in the U.S. are in Alaska and people from all over the world have made their home here, a testament to our generous and hospitable nature.

“Unfortunately, Senator Dan Sullivan does not share Alaskans’ view. Choosing instead to stand with Outside politicians, Senator Sullivan’s statement that no Syrian refugees should be allowed into the United States is completely misguided. The U.S. is already one of the most difficult countries to enter as a refugee: our screening process is the most stringent in the world and can take up to two years to pass. Individuals seeking resettlement here must go through a rigorous, multi-layered screening program: they must clear numerous background checks, biometric tests, medical screenings, and in-person interviews with Homeland Security officials. It’s disappointing that Senator Sullivan is copying colleagues from outside Alaska by trying to obstruct the long, arduous process of seeking safety and freedom in America. Impeding efforts to find refuge in the Last Frontier or the Land of the Free is contrary to both our Alaskan and American values.

“Thank you, Governor Walker, for making Alaskans proud.”