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Sam Olens said he wished his office had received a discovery request to which the memorandum was responsive. “That would have been easier for the office,” he said.Sam Olens said he wished his office had received a discovery request to which the memorandum was responsive. “That would have been easier for the office,” he said. (John Disney/Daily Report)

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens said the state cannot stop the federal government from resettling Syrian refugees here or deny them federally funded benefits, in an opinion released Wednesday.

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 for fear that some might be terrorists.

The chairman of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Georgia-Alabama chapter said he was not surprised by Olens’ conclusion. “It’s not a state matter. The state can make refugees feel unwelcome, but legally it has no ground to deny them any benefits,” said Marshall Cohen, a partner at Antonini & Cohen Immigration Law.

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