Berkeley County Council cites safety concerns in refugee ban

VIDEO: Berkeley County Council cites safety concerns in refugee ban
Published: Nov. 13, 2015 at 12:04 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 13, 2015 at 12:39 AM EST
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BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Berkeley County Council members agreed to pass a resolution against the Refugee Resettlement Project in hopes of keeping Syrian refugees from migrating to the county.

The federal program is part of the U.S humanitarian response during the war in Syria, a joint effort between The Departments of Homeland Security (DHS), State and Health and Human Services (HHS).

In September, the Obama administration called for his team to allow up to 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year, an increase from the near 1500 who migrated to the country this year.

"It's like leaving your door unlocked in a bad neighborhood," said Berkeley County resident Jennifer Ort.

"People need to know this is not about being anti-immigrant or anti-refugee," she said.

"It's about the simple fact we don't know who the refugees are."

Ort, who is also a member of Concerned Voters of Berkeley County, voiced her concerns to county council member Tommy Newell, and introduced the idea of a county resolution, referencing one already passed in Pickens County.

Newell said he had no reason to believe Berkeley County was among areas being considered, but said the resolution makes it clear they don't want to be.

"Call me what you want to call me, you're not going to hurt my feelings," he said.

"I have to look into the eyes of my 8-year old daughter and know that when I lay my head down at night, I've done everything I can to keep her protected from any kind of evil that I can."

According to the Refugee Resettlement program website, the vetting process for refugees begins with the department of homeland security, which conducts interviews and clearances, then makes the final decision on who will be allowed into the country.

A spokesperson for The State Department also provided the following statement:

The United States is committed to assisting people fleeing persecution, violence, and war.  Syrian refugees are victims, often of both terrorism and attacks by the Assad regime.  Refugees are subject to the highest level of security checks of any category of traveler to the United States. Screening includes the involvement of the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense.  We have, for years, safely admitted smaller numbers of Syrian refugees and we have a great deal of experience screening and admitting larger numbers of refugees from other chaotic environments.  The President decided to increase the admission of Syrian refugees with the belief that any risks could be managed responsibly, paving the way for the many benefits to the United States, to refugees, and to the world.

Currently, neither Charleston nor Dorchester County Council has a refugee resolution in place.

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