Paul Gardiner / Nov. 18, 2015

If Only the State Governments Had the Power!

The prospect of resettling many thousands of Syrian refugees in American cities is causing great concern over and warnings about terrorists being hidden within the ranks of the refugees. To date, governors in over 30 states have told the federal government that, on behalf of the citizens of their states, they will not cooperate with the federal government in the Syrian refugee resettlement program. Not until the federal government can adequately and positively assure the states that no terrorists are among the refugees will the governors consider cooperating in the resettlement program.

State governments, however, have little or no legal authority to overrule the Syrian refugee resettlement program of the federal government. The Refugee Act of 1980 grants power to the president to admit refugees who face “persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution.” Moreover, the Supreme Court ruled in Hines v. Davidowitz that “the supremacy of the national power in the general field of foreign affairs, including power over immigration, naturalization, and deportation, is made clear by the Constitution.”

In order to overrule a federal program such as the Syrian refugee resettlement program, state governments need authority and power to do so via a new constitutional amendment. Such an amendment might stipulate that when a super majority of state legislatures, say 3/5 or 30 state legislatures, vote to override an onerous federal regulation or program, said federal regulation or program becomes null and void. If such an amendment were in force at the present time, the 30 governors mentioned above, through votes by their legislatures, could stop the president’s Syrian refugee resettlement program.

The Convention of States Project ( is working with state legislators in all the 50 states to have 2/3 of the state legislatures vote to call for a Convention of States. At this Convention, the state delegates would propose constitutional amendments that would 1) limit the power and overreach of the federal government; 2) impose term limits on federal officials; and 3) impose fiscal restraints on the federal government (such as a bona fide balanced budget requirement for the federal government). Amendments proposed by delegates to a Convention of States would have to be ratified by at least 38 state governments in order to become part of the Constitution and, hence, law of the land.

It is truly time to get serious about curtailing the power of an overreaching federal government!

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