Spartanburg County citizens who wanted to voice their opposition to refugees resettling in Spartanburg County, did so Monday night at a council meeting.
About a dozen people signed up to talk meeting and while some changed their mind about speaking, others had strong words for council members who listened to what they had to say.
The Refugee Resettlement program has some citizens upset because they say they don’t know much about the refugees brought into their neighborhoods and don’t believe government has the ability to bring in people who will not be a threat to their security.
Refugees coming to SC and the Upstate isn’t new. The office has given the ok to relocate refugees in the state for decades. Jason Lee, Director of the World Relief in Spartanburg said about 150 have come each year since the 90’s.
He believes people are upset now because the State Departmrnt gave the OK for their agency to open an Upstate office and relocate more refugees here.
Michael Cutler is one citizen who is upset about refugee resettlement. Although he’s not from Spartanburg County, the retired Immigration and Naturalization Services agent said he traveled there to warn more refugees in the country means a greater risk of a terrorist attack.
“I am concerned that we have no method of screening the people we are admitting. This is a prescription for disaster. And if you have terrorists living in Spartanburg then the entire country is at risk, ” Cutler said.
Cutler also is concerned that when federal money, that pays for the refugee resettlement runs out, taxpayers will have to chip in.
We spoke with county council who says South Carolina isn’t paying a dime.
County Council Member Roger Nutt said council has no plans to vote on a proviso that would put state money toward the refugee program.
Right now there’s no state money going to fund the program but he also hasn’t heard from very many people that dislike it. He said if people have a strong opinion contact the Governor or a lawmaker.
Jason Lee said since his new office opened16 refugees have come to Greenville and 14 to Spartanburg. He said eighty percent of refugees relocated are Christian and are coming to the US to reunite with family members.
“The reality is people are concerned with terrorists coming in but the reality is most people that come through the refugee program are fleeing terrorism and those attacks,” said Lee.
Lee said refugees undergo more strict screening standards than any traveler in the US would experience.
That Includes a 13 step health and security process while still overseas which could take up to two years. It’s completed with personal interviews and intense background screenings Lee said.
According to World Relief, about 80 percent of the refugees they resettle are Christian.13 percent are Muslim and 7 percent are another ethnicity.
World Relief can locate refugees up to 100 miles from their office. 50 miles if they are not being sent to reunite with family.
the agency said about 70 percent of cases are reuniting families and there are no Syrian refugees that have come through World Relief to the Upstate recently.
To learn more about Mike Cutler’s efforts visit his website here.
To get all of your questions answered regarding the screening process for refugee resettlement visit worldrelief.org