The New York Times reports: In many parts of the country, including South Carolina, the Syrian crisis has elicited calls for compassion and offers of help: On Sept. 13, hundreds of people gathered in University City, a suburb of St. Louis, to ask the federal government to accept “as many Syrian refugees as possible” in the area, according to the St. Louis chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
This week, the mayors of 18 American cities, including Bill de Blasio of New York and Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, sent a letter to President Obama urging him “to increase still further the number of Syrian refugees the United States will accept for resettlement.” The mayors asserted that the United States had a “robust screening and background check” system in place for refugees, who, they said, “have helped build our economies, enliven our arts and culture, and enrich our neighborhoods.”
But even before the Syrian crisis dominated headlines worldwide, resettlement agencies had noted a rise in anti-refugee sentiment in parts of the United States, said Melanie Nezer, vice president of policy and advocacy at HIAS, a Jewish nonprofit that works with refugees. In the last two decades, they have increasingly placed people in smaller communities to try to avoid the high cost of living in traditional immigrant magnets like New York and Los Angeles. At the same time, unemployment and tight budgets have prompted some local governments to fight the placement of refugees.
In South Carolina, a number of influential Upstate religious leaders have embraced the refugee program. The Rev. D.J. Horton, senior pastor of Anderson Mill Road Baptist Church, said dozens from his flock of 2,300 had already completed refugee support training. “It’s very hard to read your Bible, especially your New Testament, and refuse refuge to people who are vulnerable,” he said. [Continue reading…]