Georgia attorney general: State can't stop settlement of Syrian refugees or deny them benefits

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Georgia's attorney general says the state cannot exclude Syrian refugees from resettlement in the state or deny them federally funded benefits.

Attorney General Sam Olens wrote Wednesday in an official opinion that there is no law that allows a state to single out refugees from a particular country for exclusion from the refugee resettlement program.

Gov. Nathan Deal had asked for Olens' opinion on an executive order he issued in November directing state agencies to "halt any involvement" in the acceptance of Syrian refugees.

Subsequently, the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Human Services sent a memo to agency staff members instructing them not to take or process new applications for any benefit assistance for Syrian refugees.

Deal spokeswoman Jen Talaber said the governor is reviewing the opinion.