Intergovernmental Relations: Syrian Refugees

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The paper will start with a brief introduction of what is intergovernmental relations and how it relates to immigration. Followed by our research purpose and research question, how do the collaboration and conflict among federal, state and local governments affect the efficiency of the immigration policy? The purpose of the study is to provide a thorough understanding of the intergovernmental institutions and processes within immigration focusing in the Syrian refugees and sanctuary cities. We will briefly discuss the intergovernmental agreements such as public service, political parties, interest groups and independent and joint agencies.


Intergovernmental relations were developed to enable the cooperative policy between all levels of government.These relationships are to intentionally connect separated powers of each governmental branch. The forms of intergovernmental relations has changed over the past few years, and its future is subject to change based on the political atmosphere of its time. The term Intergovernmental relations (IGR) started in the 1930’s as a phrase unique to the United States’ democracy. “It was a concept aimed at summarizing the general and varied growth in relationships among the local, state, and national government” (Wright, 2006).

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The most recent intergovernmental issue that has been the center of attention on every social media and news platform was the Syrian immigrants and refugees in the United States. During the 2016 United States elections, President Donald Trump’s campaign demonstrated a strong opinion in regards to naturalized citizens and non-naturalized currently in the United States. The Trump Administration’s attitude towards Syrian refugees and migrants from other countries was noticed during his campaign. His campaign platform consisted of negativity towards Syrians who were already in the country and for those waiting for asylum. During his campaign he promised to ban immigration from Arab and Muslim countries whom are “compromised by terrorism”.

In 2015, before leaving office, former President Barack Obama informed of the arrangement to accommodate over 10,000 Syrian Refugees. However, on January 27, 2017 President Donald Trump did what he promised during his campaign and issued an executive order prohibiting the entrance of current and future United States citizens from seven Muslim countries. Many were negated the opportunity to obtain a visa or not allowed to enter the country at all. This executive order is considered unconstitutional due to the fact that it would go against several federal laws in addition to the fifth amendment of the Constitution. The executive order President Trump imposed gave rise to the intergovernmental relations between the federal and state governments in the United States. The president forced an obligatory ban; however, states had the decision whether to enforce or reject the idea. Since many states opposed the idea, lawsuits were filed by the state government against the federal government. Another raising issue that will be discussed in relations to the Syrian refugees are the sanctuary cities, to which would raise federalism issues. This research paper will focus on immigration, specifically on Syrian Refugees and how the settlement brought a few states and the federal government into different conflicts. We will also discuss how the collaboration and conflict among federal, state and local governments affect the efficiency of the immigration policy.


The United States government has a very complex framework. The limitations of checks and balances the United States federal government constrains the powers of all branches, in addition the powers of the state government could alter the enforcements of certain policies. Federalism refers to the division of powers between the states and federal government. Federalism was made as a political answer for the issue of expansive and assorted country states, for example, the United States. To start with, we have the assembled states as a nation that would hold power in vital circles. The national government would likewise have influence in some practical territories. The states that are part of it, their framework was to have a state focused federalism instead of a country focused federalism, to secure states’ rights. Second, we have a bicameral congress which was made in which one chamber the senate gives each state square with portrayal paying little mind to geographic size or populace. The place of agents, which is the lower chamber which is a portrayal as indicated by the populace, as opposed to states. Third, we have various layers of portrayal. The national government would preferably coordinate control over natives, instead of following up on them through the state government.

Federalism is a type of political decentralization. It isolates political specialist and power between the national government and the states, regions or comparative government bodies. Federalism and authoritative decentralization have distinctive purposes. One advances political qualities, alternate advances administrative effectiveness of productivity, economy, authoritative adequacy and responsiveness to customers and clients (Rosenbloom et al p. 101). The world’s most vital relocation and-law theme of the most recent hundred years is exiles, including refuge, non-refoulement and security from torment, dealing and viciousness.

Immigration in the United States

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 is the earliest example of an intergovernmental relation policy that specifically excluded an ethnic group. The Chinese population was seen as a threat to the United states economy due to the immense migration wave. In this timeframe there is a similarity with the Syrian Refugees since both policies were exclusive of certain ethnic groups. The Chinese Exclusion Act was ruled inhumane and unconstitutional. Conversely, the travel ban policy was overruled by some states and debates are still taking place because some say it’s unconstitutional, however the way it was presented indicates that it was aimed to exclude groups from Muslim countries. The idea behind the travel ban policy was to protect the United States from countries where terrorist groups are prominent. Relating it back to intergovernmental relations, both policies are determined to be followed or disobeyed based on the state government.

Since the 1970’s, the United States has been the predominant location for international migration. There have been numerous policies that have shaped the patterns of immigration. One of the first immigration policies to challenge the flow of immigration that was imposed by the U.S. federal government was the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965. This act was the turning point of immigration from previous migration restriction from Asia and Africa. This would favor the migration of people from the northern and western parts of Europe over the southern and eastern Europeans. In the 1960’s the U.S. government faced both foreign and domestic pressure to change its nation-based formula that discriminated based on individual’s place of birth.

The growth of undocumented immigration in the United States would continue to rise despite efforts to control it. Since the late 20th century large streams of immigrants from countries in close proximity like Mexico have found ways to bypass the U.S. border checkpoints with strict border enforcement. The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act allowed 3.3 million undocumented individuals to legalize but this did not resolve the problem. There is not any indication by experts that the inflow of unauthorized immigrants will diminish soon. Although the exclusionary acts and the Immigration Act of 1924 did manage to reduce immigration from countries such as Asia and Eastern Europe, the actual impact of these laws failed to completely control the flow of migration into the United States (Zhao,2016).

Over the past two decades, new anti-immigration policies and laws have evolved to address the migration of undocumented immigrants. Because of immeasurably unique expectations for everyday comforts caused by substantial salary aberrations among developed and developing nation, individuals have been moving to all the more encouraging and created districts from the beginning of time.

Intergovernmental Relations and Syrian Immigrants

Syrian immigrants and refugees have found themselves at the center of debate during the Trump presidency. All levels of governments have clearly showcased a division of opinions when it comes to the refugee crisis.

In a study conducted on Syrian immigrants, this group was an overwhelmingly large portion of immigrants who came to the United States before the recent refugee crisis. The Syrian immigrants, like other immigrants, have always made some form of contribution to local economies around the country, their success in this is a positive sign that the United States is a place that can provide opportunity for a diverse population. As the United States continues to accept refugees fleeing the horrific Syrian war zone shows the positive impact of their success. Those refugees will find that it can help to have a receiving community which includes people who share culture, speak the same language and in many cases, religious backgrounds and understand both sides of the transformation that refugees will be making from living in Syria to living in the United States.

During the worldwide Syrian refugee crisis, the United States admitted 15,583 Syrian refugees between January 2014 and October 2016. While this is a small fraction of the 4.8 million Syrian refugees registered by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees as of November 2016, reaching the United States’ goal of admitting 10,000 refugees from Syria in fiscal year 2016 which it achieved by August 31, 2016 has been important as a means of demonstrating the national commitment to the international efforts to manage the refugee crisis (Mahtema,2016). According to Mahtema, Syrian refugees arrive in the United States after an extensive and highly structured vetting process. As with other refugee communities, the government and resettlement agencies collaborate to find locations that are suitable for refugee resettlement: Attention is given to cost of housing, availability of jobs, and whether there is a receiving community that can help the refugees settle. In the case of Syrian refugees, there is already a significant population of Syrian immigrants living in cities such as Los Angeles, Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Houston.

Migration greatly affects the economy in three main areas: the labor market, the public purse, and economic growth. When it relates to labor markets migrants accounted for 47% of the increase in the workforce in the United States. Boubtane et al (2013) further described how the native born, young migrants are better educated than those nearing retirement. Migrants contribute more in taxes and social contributions than they receive in benefits. Employment is the single biggest determinant of migrant’s fiscal contribution. Migrants arrive with skills and contribute to human capital development of receiving countries. They also contribute to technological progress.

National Security

National security has increased over the years and has been more strict with certain ethnic groups. In the United States studies have shown that refugees are screened more strictly than any other group of foreign immigrants. The process of screening the refugees consists of careful background checks that is be conducted by the Department of State and various other groups such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), various national defense and intelligence agencies, and on top of in-person interview. For Syrians, on average the processing time takes about 18-24 months. Of the refugees admitted to the United States via the resettlement program since 9/11, there is a likely percentage that some will have been arrested on the terms of terrorism-related charges of seeking to commit an attack on the United States (Chishti,2016).

After the 9/11 attack, national security increased, all the states felt threatened and states provided funding to Homeland Security. Prior to an immigration visa being approved, the application goes through a more vigorous process placing the national security as head of the immigration processes. Since 9/11, the president and congress have screened immigration policy proposals and procedures. The 9/11 attack left many in constant fear and created a phobia from people who came from Muslim countries. The Bush administration passed the USA Patriot Act was passed by congress with the purpose to expand authority to search, monitor, and detain citizens and non-citizens. However, the act isolated ethnic groups such as Arabs, Muslims and Sikhs. “TSA was given the authority to detain, deport, or file criminal charges against noncitizens” (Hing, 2006). The immigration related proposal expanded the government’s authority, and act on the name of national security.

Actions taken by governments in recent years

During President Obama’s term in office, he took on several actions that would temporarily legalize some type of relief and aid to many undocumented immigrants. In 2012, the Obama administration jump started a program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This act would offer renewable, two-year deportation deferrals and workers permits to young, undocumented immigrants who had arrived to the United States as children and had no criminal records. Former President Obama characterized the movement as a “stopgap measure” and insisted that Congress should pass the Dream Act. Furthermore in 2014, former President Obama attempted to extend the similar benefits of recipients of the DACA to as many as five million undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. This would give rise to conflict between the executive branch and about more than two dozen U.S. states that opposed. These states would later sue the Obama administration, against the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), because it apparently violated the federal immigration law and was against the U.S. Constitution. In 2015A Texas federal judge blocked the program, and the Supreme Court was able to remove it in 2016 (Felter, 2018).

Although, many Republicans had a view that Obama administration was far too lenient on the enforcement in its efforts to remove any undocumented immigrants who have criminal charges. President Donald Trump’s response was to signed several executive orders that would alter immigration policy of the Obama era. The first executive order that was signed focused on the security of the physical border. These orders instructed that the federal government to construct a wall “to obtain complete operational control” of the U.S. border with Mexico. This would end the practice of catch and release, where certain unauthorized immigrants who were captured at the border would be released into the United States while they await court hearings. Additionally, this allowed the expansion of the application of “expedited removal”. This included any unauthorized immigrant that could not prove they had been in the United States for two years, allowing easy access to be removed without a court hearing (Felter, 2018).

The second executive order focused on the expansion of internal border enforcement. This would expand all categories of unauthorized immigrants prioritized for removal and ordered increases in border patrol and detention facilities. It also ordered the restriction of federal funds from sanctuary jurisdictions, to which limited their abilities and power in regards to federal immigration officials (Felter, 2018).

The third executive order focused on terrorism prevention, banned all people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen from entering the United States for at least ninety days. This travel ban would blocked nationals from Syria indefinitely and suspended the U.S. refugee program for 120 days. These actions would cause an uproar of protests and legal cases from individuals, cities, and states to challenge the executive orders.The travel ban suffered several legal setbacks; the Trump administration underwent several revisions of the order, and ended up being taken to the Supreme Court, where it is currently still up for debate. (Felter, 2018)

How are the States and Local authorities handling the issue?

States vary in the way they treat undocumented immigrants due to the fact that opinions on the issue have created a clear division between people in the government.There are a few cases to which states are lenient with undocumented groups of immigrant. There are some that even offer some privileges that regular citizens have access too. For example, California enable undocumented settlers to apply for driver’s licenses, receive in-state tuition at universities, and other in-state benefits. Yet, there continues to be division amongst the states on how to deal with undocumented or unauthorized people.

There are many factors that contribute to a state’s attitude towards a group of immigrants. For instance, events such as terrorists attacks that occurred December 2015 in Paris, there were at least 31 U. S governors that issued statements opposing the Syrian refugees into their states. This would lead to several states issuing legal challenges in regards to the placement of Syrians. Yet none have been successful to date, meanwhile there are various, voluntary organizations working in the U.S. government on the resettling refugees across the United States.


Syrian immigrants are doing well once they can adjust to the American culture. It is not always necessary for successful integration to have a receiving community of the same background as an incoming refugee group. The research paper was intended to focus on Immigration specifically in the Syrian Refugees. Refugee settlement brought certain states and the federal government into different conflicts. The paper also discussed how Syrian Refugees and migrants have contributed to the economic growth not only of their local government but also the state and federal. It seems unclear how refugees are selected or their selection process. However, as it’s presented in the paper Syrian refugees seeking asylum has brought intergovernmental relations to play either against or in favor of migration because while the federal government might be against it, we have the state power who will support and create laws and policies to help the community.

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