A coalition in Delaware has formed to oppose any Syrian refugees from entering the state, and have written an open letter to Gov. Jack Markell, D-Delaware, who has stated he will accept refugees with open arms.
On Thursday, the Concerned Coalition Alliance of Delaware held a press conference outside Legislative Hall in Dover to express their concerns about refugee resettlement.
The alliance is a coalition of the 912 Delaware Patriots, Faith and Freedom Coalition Delaware, the NAACP of Central Delaware and the Frederick Douglass Foundation of Sussex County.
Karen Gritton, executive director of 912 Delaware Patriots, a group that says it fights for constitutional rights, said other countries in the Middle East should be responsible for accepting refugees, not the United States.
“Their need is not taxpayer supplied housing and EBT cards in Dover, Newark or Seaford, in a culture completely foreign to their Islamic worldview, and 6,000 miles from their known way of life.”
Markell’s office has said the settlement of refugees is approved by the federal government, not by the states.
Still, the coalition is adamant on its position that accepting refugees into Delaware would be harmful to its residents, and believes Markell has the right to block funding that would settle refugees in Delaware.
The coalition says it’s not anti-Muslim, but is concerned the vetting process for refugees coming into the U.S. is flawed.
“We are faced with new and uncertain dangers that can only increase as we neglect to control those who gain access to our country,” Gritton said. “Importing persons from a vastly different culture and trying to integrate them is exorbitantly expensive and the unpredictable results can be devastating.”
In a statement, Markell’s press secretary Kelly Bachman said the federal government’s refugee system has the highest level of security checks for any travelers entering American shores.
Markell has stated that not accepting refugees goes against America’s values and history of immigration.
“The refugees we are talking about are families in desperate straits, who, even given their circumstances, must wait 18 to 24 months for approval,” Bachman said in an email statement.
“The governor continues to believe that rejecting them would run counter to our national values, and that states should also adhere to federal law, which does not provide governors the right to refuse them.”
Jacob Bender, executive director for the Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said he’s concerned about groups spreading misinformation about the possibility of terrorists entering the country.
He said his organization is in favor of settling as many Syrian refugees as possible based on availability of sites and a vetting process.
“America has always been a land of refugees and openness, and the worst episodes of American history have been characterized by intense xenophobia and closing of the borders,” Bender said.
“The example set by our neighbor Canada, and Germany, speak loudly of the responsibility of this country to address what the UN describes as the worst humanitarian disaster since World War II.”
La Mar Gunn of the NAACP of Central Delaware said he stands with the coalition, because he believes the U.S. should focus on issues at home before helping those from other countries.
“Just a short few blocks from here people live in extreme poverty, the same people who have voted for the top officials, who have been ignored,” he said.
“I think we must look right here in our own backyard, which quite frankly, the unemployment rate for black males is two and almost three times that of white males. Before we talk about extending limited resources we have let’s take care of our own people.”
Sen. David Lawson, R-Marydel, also said he agrees with the coalition’s actions against refugees, which he says originate in “third world” countries. He said he believes the refugees will be placed in Wilmington, which could cause safety concerns.
“Why is it we can’t put effort in finding them sanctuary in an area in which they’re accustomed? There are areas in the world where they’re accustomed to what goes on there and they would be far more comfortable there,” Lawson said.
“Uprooting them and bringing them to the 21st century when they’re far from that in their own country is dangerous across the board.”
Bender said many individuals of the Muslim community in the area hail from Syria or have relatives that live in the country, and he believes the tri-state area would benefit greatly from taking in refugees.
“CAIR and the entire Muslim community is opposed to terrorism, we condemn the actions of ISIL in Paris and San Bernardino, and this is not a question of being pro-violence,” he said.
“But we feel these are desperate people, and it’s our responsibility as citizens and as a Muslim organization [to accept refugees].”