Pete Snyder calls on McAuliffe to bar Syrian refugees in Virginia

A widespread backlash against accepting refugees from Syria got an endorsement from a prominent Virginia Republican Monday. 

Republican Party of Virginia finance director and likely 2017 lieutenant governor candidate Pete Snyder published an op-ed in which he calls on Gov. Terry McAuliffe "to demand that President Obama halt any efforts to allow Syrian refugees into the Commonwealth of Virginia."

The op-ed published on the conservative website Bearing Drift indicates both security concerns are escalating after the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday and that Virginia's 2017 statewide races are already heating up. 

In September, the Obama administration committed to accepting up to 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next fiscal year. More  than seven million Syrians have been displaced by that country's civil war.

Although none of the suspects so far named in Friday's attack is a Syrian national, GOP governors have been urging caution before resettling populations that could include Sunni Muslims sympathetic to the Islamic State and other Salafist groups.

As of Monday, governors in six states, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, had declared they would not accept any Syrian refugees. GOP presidential candidate Jindal, who will leave office next year, took to Twitter to say that he had signed an executive order "instructing state agencies to take all available steps to stop the relocation of Syrian refugees to LA." 

In all, 23 Republican governors, along with Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, have expressed reservations about or begun exploring options to prevent the settlement of refugees from Syria in their states. 

McAuliffe has not opposed the resettlement in Virginia, but he underscored the need for caution. McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy sent a statement to AMI Newswire stressing the security measures the administration would take regarding any Syrian refugees relocated to Virginia.

"He has asked Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran and his team to maintain close contact with federal and local authorities," Coy said, "in order to ensure that we are taking every step we can to protect our communities. 

"With respect to refugees, the Governor and his public safety team are in constant communication with federal authorities about all refugee resettlements, including those involving refugees from Syria," Coy said. "Every refugee who is settled in the U.S. undergoes intensive security screening, and the Governor has asked Secretary Moran to ensure that every proper precaution is taken to keep Virginians safe."

Snyder was in no mood for such assurances. "In the wake of these latest threats from radical Islamists and DAESH aimed at our region," he wrote, "we simply cannot afford to put the safety and security of Virginians at risk."

Virginia Department of Social Services spokeswoman Necole Simmonds told AMI Newswire that very few Syrian refugees have been relocated to the state in the last year.

"In federal fiscal year 2015," Simmonds said, "25 Syrian refugees were resettled in to the Commonwealth of Virginia. These 25 refugees represent one percent of the 2,338 total number of refugees resettled in Virginia in 2015."

Simmonds added that in the current fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, "no Syrian refugees have been resettled in Virginia."

Snyder, the runner-up for the GOP's 2013 lieutenant governor nomination, has indicated he is looking to run for the same position again in 2017. Delegate Scott Taylor (R-Virginia Beach), a former Navy SEAL, has formed an exploratory run for the state's No. 2 job.