Haley to State Dept.: Don't send Syrian refugees to SC

Haley to State Dept.: Don't send Syrian refugees to SC

COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC/AP) - In a letter to U.S. State Department, Gov. Nikki Haley requested Monday that no Syrian refugees be settled in the Palmetto State because of a potential threat to national security.

Haley wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry, expressing "concerns with the vetting process of refugees from conflict-zones, specifically Syria." She said reports surfaced since Friday's terror attacks in France that "at least one of the attackers entered France by claiming to be a refugee hoping to escape the conflict in Syria."

"After reviewing recent public statements and personally speaking today with intelligence officials, it is my understanding that while our national security agencies are working tirelessly to vet potential refugees, there remain gaps in available intelligence for those fleeing Syria," she wrote. "This lack of historical and verifiable intelligence with many Syrian refugees makes it difficult, if not impossible, to thoroughly vet individuals seeking to enter the United States as a refugee."

"Therefore, until I can be assured that all potential refugees from Syria have no ties to terrorist organizations, I am requesting that the State Department not resettle any Syrian refugees in South Carolina," she wrote. "While I agree that the United States should try to assist individuals in such dire situations, it is precisely because of the situation in Syria that makes their admission into the United States a potential threat to our national security."

Earlier, Haley said she was re-evaluating international refugee programs in light of the terrorist attacks in Paris but continued to support allowing the persecuted to come to the state.

State Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler called on the Republican governor to end her support, saying South Carolina can't take any chances on an "oops moment" in vetting asylum seekers. But Haley earlier said as long as nothing was changing in who is being resettled in the state, neither would her stance.

Haley said no Syrians have been brought to South Carolina. She said refugees resettling in the state have been persecuted for being Christians, for their political views or because they were interpreters for American military personnel, adding refugees coming to the state are being brought over by two Christian relief organizations.

Copyright 2015 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.