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Syrian refugees resettle in South Carolina, more planned

Gavin Jackson


COLUMBIA — Resettlement of Syrian refugees rose in South Carolina last month as part of a national push — despite security concerns raised by officials.

Since mid-June, some 22 refugees from the war-torn Middle Eastern country have resettled in the state, according to the latest available data. The federal government has approved an additional 26 for resettlement, according to Gov. Nikki Haley’s office.

More than 5,000 refugees have resettled nationwide under President Barack Obama’s push to have 10,000 resettled in the country by the end of September.

The growing numbers concern Haley, who last November asked Secretary of State John Kerry to halt resettlement of Syrian refugees in the state until receiving assurances that proper security checks were completed.

“We are a compassionate state with a history of welcoming those in need, but the safety and security of South Carolinians is the governor’s highest priority,” Haley spokeswoman Chaney Adams said in a statement.

While Adams acknowledged the state cannot stop the federal government from sending Syrian refugees to South Carolina, she said Haley has been in contact with FBI Director James Comey and made it clear to Kerry that until refugees from Syria can be properly vetted “it’s not appropriate for them to be sent to South Carolina or any other state.”

Despite a vetting process that can take up to two years, Haley is among 30 other governors have asked the federal government to not resettle Syrians in their states.

Comey, during a congressional committee hearing in October, issued an assurance there was no risk “associated with the resettlement program.” The comments gained significant traction after terror attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded. A Syrian passport, believed to be a fake, was found at the site of one suicide bomber in Paris, sparking worry that attackers were Syrian. Reports have indicated the attackers only traveled to Syria, and ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks.

States have no authority over who the federal government


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