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Kasich: No refugees until background checks improve

Ohio Gov. John Kasich told President Obama in a letter that the U.S. should not accept any refugees from Syria until the background check process is stronger.

"I do not believe the U.S. should accept additional Syrian refugees because security and safety issues cannot adequately addressed," Kasich, who is also running for the Republican presidential nomination, wrote Monday. "In light of what happened last week, our government should not continue to grant refugee status to individuals from any country who have no personal information in federal databases or official papers."

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A number of governors have pledged to keep Syrian refugees out of their states after news that at least one of the men who carried out terror attacks in Paris last week may have entered Europe with the wave of people fleeing violence in Syria.

Kasich's letter acknowledges what many other governors do not: States do not have the legal authority to reject refugees from the United States since immigration is the sole jurisdiction of the federal government. They can only try to make the resettlement process more difficult. Kasich does "respectfully request that the federal government take no further action in resettling Syrian refugees in Ohio."

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"I empathize with the plight of Syrians who are running from violent conditions and civil war. However, I am not confident in the process and procedures for adequately investigating security threats posed by potential refugees who may be resettled in the United States, specifically Ohio, and as governor it is my duty to ensure the safety and security of the citizens of my state. Until the rigor and depth of background checks are improved and their results are more transparently shared with states, I urge the federal government not to accept more Syrian refugees," he wrote.

In a separate letter to the Republican leaders in Congress, Kasich urged lawmakers to "explore ways that we can strengthen the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program and its security-review process.

Other Republican presidential candidates have also soured on Syrian refugee resettlement and have said the program should be ended or even defunded by Congress.

Kasich is set to deliver a national security speech Tuesday at the National Press Club.

President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to accept refugees at a press conference Monday, although he said they would be accepted "only after subjecting them to rigorous screening and security checks." He noted that many of them were also fleeing terrorism.

"Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values," he said.

This article has been updated to correct a quote from Kasich's letter.

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