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Congress Kept in Dark About Syrian Refugees Resettled in US, South Carolina Republican Charges

© LOUAI BESHARA

SYRIA, MAALULA : A Syrian nun lights candles inside the historical church of Mar Taqla in the village of Maalula north of Damascus 24 December. All of the 6000 inhabitants of Maaloula still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ. Syria Christians are preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ in the middle of the holy Moslem month of Ramadan. While Syria's Moslem majority is spending the daylight hours fasting, Christians are busily preparing their own ceremonies across the country.

John Burger - published on 04/17/15 - updated on 06/08/17

Trey Gowdy, despite being on immigration and homeland security committees, was not informed of plans for his state

The four-year-old civil war in Syria has claimed the lives of more than 220,000 people and driven some 9 million of the pre-war population of 23 million from their homes. An international aid group called the International Rescue Committee, headed by former UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband, has called on the United States to resettle 65,000 Syrians before the end of 2016. Plans are moving ahead to send refugees to various cities around the country.

Republican Trey Gowdy represents South Carolina’s 4th District in Congress, and he serves on several key committees that might have an interest in who is coming into the country: Immigration and Border Security and Crime Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations. 

But apparently he was kept in the dark about a program to resettle refugees in Spartanburg, S.C. 

"As the Member of the U.S. House of Representatives representing the Spartanburg area, I am deeply concerned about the lack of notice, information, and consultation afforded to me and my constituents about this issue," he said Monday in a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry. "I am troubled by the lack of notice and coordination with my office and the Spartanburg community, particularly local officials, regarding the plans to resettle refugees in the area."

Gowdy sent a list of questions he wants answered by the State Department, including:

• How many refugees will be resettled in the Spartanburg area?
• How are the refugees chosen to resettle in Spartanburg?
• What is the country of origin of each of the refugees to be resettled in the Spartanburg area?
• Do any of the refugees to be resettled in the Spartanburg area have criminal convictions?
• If so, for what crimes has each been convicted?
• Please explain the background check process performed on refugees scheduled to be resettled in Spartanburg.

The New York Times Friday also notes that some have concerns about the process:


…the plan to step up Syrian refugee resettlement in the United States has stirred pushback from Republican lawmakers in Congress, who are increasingly vocal about the fear that terrorists may sneak in with the refugees.

While the Republicans have not called for a full-on moratorium on Syrian refugee admissions, they have urged the Obama administration to go slow, until the United States can be assured that all applicants are properly screened. A congressional hearing is due in the coming weeks.

“In the case of Syrian refugees, our intelligence on the ground is alarmingly slim, making it harder to identify extremists,” Representative Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in an emailed statement.

As of April 9, the U.S. has resettled 648 Syrians, less than 1% of the number the UN hopes America will accept. Mark Krikorian, writing in National Review on Monday, said only about 40 of them are Christians. 

Tags:
PoliticsRefugeesTerrorism

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