It’s fortunate that refugees fleeing Herod chose Egypt instead of South Carolina.
As the grandson of refugees who fled Romania and Russia to avoid persecution and lifetime conscription in the tsar’s army, and being Jewish, I identify with the oppressed.
Because of this history, the recent Berkeley and Pickens county resolutions and Gov. Nikki Haley’s position not to approve the relocation of Syrian refugees in South Carolina makes my blood boil.
These actions are contrary to the principles, practices and traditions of our great nation.
The Emma Lazarus poem engraved on the Statue of Liberty says it best:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tost to me ...”
The U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program resettles refugees in small towns where they receive community support to help them negotiate their new life.
In the 14 years since Sept. 11, 2001, about 785,000 refugees from around the world have been resettled through this program and only 12 have been arrested or returned.
Compare this with the FBI’s estimate that more than 12 million people in the U.S. were arrested in 2012 alone.
The thorough, time-consuming vetting process provides the necessary assurances that they will behave themselves.
I am so proud of our community’s and state’s behavior following the Emanuel AME Church massacre and the shooting of Walter Scott. All came together in a spirit of inclusiveness and trust in order to begin to heal.
However, the recent behavior of our elected officials in profiling Syrian refugees for exclusion flies in the face of this exemplary behavior.
I say to you, county commissioners, and to you, Gov. Haley, that we, the citizens of South Carolina, are much better than that.
We do not profile, single out or discriminate, nor are we fear mongers or xenophobes.
We have a rich and proud history of accepting people fleeing persecution, war and famine, and seeking political and religious freedom.
As these unfortunate refugees arrive in the future, as in the past, they will be helped by thousands of private citizens, many of them in our state, who volunteer their time to help them.
A heartfelt thanks to them.
Stephen J. Ziff