Berkeley County Council says no to Syrian refugees

On Monday, the Berkeley County Council officially refused to admit Syrian refugees into their county under the Refugee Resettlement Program, joining Spartanburg County, the County Council of which issued a similar positioning in September.

The Refugee Resettlement Program is a federally implemented program designed to ease transitioning refugees from their lives in the Middle East to immigrants in the United States. According to CNN, 27 states have taken action in a similar fashion to Berkeley County, as only 1,500 Syrian refugees have been resettled into the United States as a part of the program since the conflict in Syria began four years ago.

Berkeley County Councilman Tommy Newell: "I'm not sure the federal government can screen all of the refugees coming over to make sure they're not a part of ISIS or some other terrorist group" (Photo courtesy of the Flickr Creative Commons via World Bank Photo Collection).

Berkeley County Councilman Tommy Newell has voiced his concern along with many other voices nationally on the ability of the U.S. State Department to screen and process vast waves of Syrian refugees (Photo courtesy of the Flickr Creative Commons via World Bank Photo Collection).

Berkeley County Councilman Tommy Newell said in a quote to The Post and Courier, “I can’t take the chance of my 8-year-old being attacked at school.” The Councilman urged all South Carolina public officials to, “cease and desist from placing any refugees anywhere within the state of South Carolina,” as Newell related the necessity for the South Carolina Legislature to first convene and pass legislation reflecting the will of the people with regard to the issue of refugee resettlement.

The issue lying at the heart of refugee resettlement, as Councilman Newell explained it, is the difficulty of conducting federal background checks upon the sudden wave of refugees. Newell, along with many other voices of the Republican Party throughout the state have expressed concern over these checks, remaining uncertain if the United States government can screen each refugee to ensure no agents of infamous terror groups such as ISIS, the Taliban, or Al Qaeda enter the country in secret.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has officially expressed her disagreement with the Refugee Relocation Program as well, saying no Syrian refugees are to be relocated into the state.

CisternYard News reached out to the student body of the College to gather public opinion surrounding the issue.

“First and foremost, refugees are the most screened immigrants allowed into our country. They face scrutiny of the highest degree by the US government,” a student who wished to remain anonymous said. “They are fleeing from a war-stricken country. They are running from their home, their culture, and their old lives. They are giving up everything they have ever had for the chance of survival,” the source concluded, “the terrorist organizations are using our own fear against us, and against those who desperately need our help.”

In order to assuage the Syrian refugee crisis, The Obama Administration plans to grant 10,000 Syrian refugees legal status by the end of this fiscal year (Photo courtesy of the Flickr Creative Commons via Josh Zakary).

In order to assuage the Syrian refugee crisis, The Obama Administration plans to grant 10,000 Syrian refugees legal status by the end of this fiscal year (Photo courtesy of the Flickr Creative Commons via Josh Zakary).

College of Charleston student Lindsey Dollens offered an alternative opinion, saying, “I think that it’s important to help other nations that are in turmoil. However, the most logical way to help would be to put more American boots on Syrian soil. We need to send trained soldiers to the Middle East if we want to both protect innocent citizens of the Middle Eastern as well as our own nation’s civilian population.”

How will the issues surrounding Syrian refugee integration into the United States be solved? The Obama Administration plans to offer at least 10,000 Syrian refugees legal status by the end of this fiscal year. Will that be enough to ease the situation? As issues are developed, only time will tell.

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Scott Harvin is a sophomore Communication major with a minor in International Studies in the Honors College at the College of Charleston. Originally from Sumter, South Carolina, he is thrilled to be able to call the wonderful city of Charleston his new home, where he cannot wait to watch the next three years of his life unfold. Other than his academic career at the College, Scott is also a Resident Assistant in McAlister Residence Hall, a tour guide for Charleston 40, a member of the Student Ambassador Program and a News Contributor for CisternYard News. All of this can only mean two things: first, he knows pretty much anything anyone could ever want to know about the College and second, he never sleeps. Despite this, he still finds time to explore his passions for music, photography and adventure, collecting vinyl records while traveling the southeast with close companions to root out the best experiences, restaurants and events the world has to offer. He does all of this while pursuing his ultimate dream: becoming a journalist for a major news branch, preferably in New York, where he hopes to live out the American Dream. “You may call him a dreamer, but he’s not the only one.”


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