It would be one thing if Berkeley County were in the same position as European nations trying to absorb hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees seeking asylum from that country’s brutal civil war and the terrorist groups that have arisen amidst the chaos.
But Berkeley County is decidedly not in the same position. Not even close.
That didn’t stop Berkeley County Council from publicly stating its opposition to the federal Refugee Resettlement Project in a resolution passed during a Monday special meeting.
“The Berkeley County Council calls on all South Carolina public officials to immediately cease and desist from the placement of refugees anywhere within the state of South Carolina,” reads the resolution.
The document references refugee immigrants from the “Middle East region,” but the council members were clear that it specifically applies to Syrians.
Its timing has to do with a September Obama administration announcement that the United States would accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the 2016 fiscal year.
Of course, not a single Syrian refugee has been relocated to Berkeley County so far, and there are no apparent plans to bring anyone there in the near future. South Carolina as a whole accepts a small number of refugees from around the world as part of its participation in the Resettlement Project.
Refugees resettled in South Carolina thus far this year arrived from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar and Iraq, according to Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Anne Richard.
Some Syrians could arrive by the end of the year, she said.
“These people are in danger of losing their lives in their home countries for things such as aiding U.S. troops as translators or guides, membership of a religious minority, or regional war or genocide,” wrote Gov. Nikki Haley in an April letter to the Spartanburg County Legislative Delegation after the city’s leaders expressed concern about the state’s refugee policy.
In the letter, Ms. Haley also pointed out that those settled in South Carolina are cared for by local families rather than left to their own devices. But she urged the U.S. State Department to nonetheless be more transparent about how it screens immigrant refugees
Ensuring that the United States does not admit terrorist refugees should indeed be a priority.
But it’s unlikely that violent extremists aligned with the Islamic State or other terrorist organizations would try to take advantage of the refugee crisis to enter the country.
That’s because refugees must endure tremendous hardship on life-threatening journeys to reach foreign shores. Far too many terrorists can simply board a plane or mobilize domestic radicals already living here.And ultimately it is precisely the suffering faced by Syrian refugees that should cause South Carolinians to welcome them with open arms.
Those men and women travel hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles in unimaginably harsh conditions in search of a life safe from terrorism and a violent, oppressive dictator.
The Obama administration, despite its promises, has shown little stomach to forcefully defend Syrians from those threats in their homeland. President Bashar al-Assad has continued attacks on civilians who oppose his dictatorial rule.
That America is a nation of immigrants has been stated many times. Immigrants have come from all over the world including places where they faced danger, oppression and death.
The United States can spare some space to accommodate Syrian refugees.
So can South Carolina, and so can Berkeley County.