- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 19, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina lawmakers are considering two proposals that would strictly limit refugees resettling in the state, although neither one would take the likely illegal step of banning them from the state entirely.

One bill would require a public database of refuges resettled in the state and hold their sponsors liable for damages if they committed an act of terrorism. A second resolution calls for a ban on state agencies taking in new refugees until the federal government can establish new procedures to alleviate security concerns.

The issue came up suddenly last week when conservative senators tried to bring the proposals directly to a vote. Democrats fought off the effort, sending the bills to a subcommittee where it had its first hearing Tuesday.

During that hearing, the Department of Social Services said the two organizations that help settle refugees in the state - World Relief Corp and Lutheran Services Carolinas - have permission to resettle up to 320 refugees in the next year.

So far, only two refugees from Syria have been placed in South Carolina, with one family awaiting final approval. And in all likelihood, significant fewer than the maximum will find a place in the state no matter what lawmakers do because of the two year screening process by the federal government.



But supporters of the bills say that screening process is too lax. Sen. Lee Bright said he understands the Christian principles he lives by call for helping those less fortunate. But he said he has to balance that with his role as a senator to protect the safety of the state’s citizens.

“Up to 320 - a lot of damage could be done when your enemy plainly says we’re going to spread jihad through refugees,” said Bright, R-Roebuck.

The president of Lutheran Services Carolinas couldn’t make it to the meeting, but sent along a statement opposing the bill. Ted Goins said the proposals only raise unnecessary fears for people fleeing horrible situations.

Goins said none of the 1,500 refugees resettled by the group in the past 10 years have ever had a serious brush with the law and are now hardworking taxpayers.

“They are fleeing terror, not causing it,” Goins wrote.

Passing the proposals could also have unintended consequences too, State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel said.

The federal government doesn’t share where it puts refugees with state police. SLED only learns about their names and locations when DSS or other agencies tell them, Keel said.

___

Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP. His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/jeffrey-collins

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide