Wofford College hosted a panel discussion on Refugee Resettlement Thursday morning. It was open to the public and panelists took questions from the audience.
Panel participants were four professors; Dr. Laura H. Barbas Rhoden, professor of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures, Dr. Philip C. Dorroll, assistant professor of religion, Dr. Mark S. Byrnes, associate professor and chair of the Department of History, and Dr. Kimberly A. Rostan, associate professor of English. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Byron R. McCane.
Participants said this was an opportunity for them to educate the public on the real issue of refugee resettlement and dispel some false information some people see in the media or elsewhere. This is all after several meetings were held throughout the county where members of the public expressed their disapproval of the resettlement of 60 refugees in Spartanburg this year.
“The CIA and intelligence agents that are overseas, they tell us they cannot trace these people,” said Jim McMillan at Monday nights county council meeting.
Many other Spartanburg County citizens told WSPA on Monday that they feel welcoming too many people from foreign countries into our area will strip the state of it’s rich culture and cause a security threat.
Panelist Philip Dorrol said refugees are not looking to come to the U.S. to cause harm, but to escape it.
“They are people who have lost their home, family, lives their loved ones, been tortured or suffered themselves. They have nothing to go back to. That’s why you leave your home country, you have nothing to go back to,” Dorrol said.
Friday WSPA spoke with a refugee who came to Spartanburg in 1972, Husein Kapasi. Kapasi and his family started a business in Spartanburg, Kapasi Glass.
He said he remembers coming to the state like it was yesterday.
“We loaded up in the bus, it was the 16th of November, I shall remember always,” Husein said.
Kapasi came to the U.S. from Uganda to escape a hostile leader and a violent regime.
” It was a sad story to leave everything and get out with 50 pounds. One bag, suitcase, you leave each and everything.
Kapasi said he feels like he’s had a much different experience in Spartanburg. His son Mustan said from the day he and his family came over to meet their father and live in Spartanburg, neighbors were welcoming. Kapasi developed a business, hired Upstate workers and agreed that for the most part, everyone has welcomed them.
” I’ve been all over the Southeast watching my Gamecocks play football and it’s so fun meeting people. Every now and then you’ll have someone who isn’t nice,” Mustan said.
He tells WSPA, he understands the fear that comes with not knowing new members of the community well, but hopes the Upstate will welcome new refugees with open arms, like they did the Kapasi family.
Panelist Dorrol can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and will take your questions.