Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Archive for the ‘South Carolina’ Category

Banning Martian Refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 28, 2015

ban martians 1

A THREAT to American values.

Pickens County Council in S. Carolina has cast a unanimous resolution prohibiting Syrian refugees from being resettled in the county. The director of the Spartanburg SC branch of World Relief Rev. Jason Lee describes the Council’s actions as “mind-boggling”, and that “[they] can pass resolutions for Martians not to come too, because they’re not coming either.” World Relief has been resettling refugees in Spartanburg and Greenville counties, not Pickens County. Angry conservative tea party activists have spent a lot of energy sounding the alarm bells about Syrian refugees in Pickens County, where no one is resettling them. One zany activist stood before members of the Pickens County Republican Party at a meeting at Liberty Auditorium and warned the hushed crowd of about 40, breathless in anticipation, that the refugee program is part of a “CONSPIRACY orchestrated by insiders” in Washington, designed to create “a ONE-PARTY POLITICAL SYSTEM” and “enlarge a populace DEPENDENT on BIG GOVERNMENT!” She went on to charge up the crowd with panic and fear, telling attendees that the influx of “Muslims from the Middle East”, most of them men of “FIGHTING AGE”, is part of the Islamic State’s “STEALTH ATTACK” on “AMERICAN VALUES!” One almost envisions scary Middle East terrorists whipping and abusing little frightened and defenseless American values, cringing in fear. Meanwhile refugees resettled, clear over in Spartanburg county, are “persecuted Christians from the Congo and Burma. Four…from Iraq and the rest…from other African nations.” No plans for Syrian refugees being resettled there either. In fact, no one has resettled Syrian refugees at all in all of South Carolina. Nevertheless, Greenville County Councilman Joe Dill made the political pronouncement that he doesn’t like “the way” resettlement is being done, and insisted that a workshop be scheduled to answer all of his “questions.” Lee at World Relief said he invited the legislative delegations of both Greenville and Spartanburg counties to a meeting to discuss the issue, yet not one lawmaker showed up. Articles in the Greenville News by Ron Barnett attempt to explain the strange and bewildering tea party and Republican political goings on:

Members of the Pickens County Republican Party recently heard a chilling update on the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program at Liberty Auditorium….

Critics of the alarmist sentiment, however, say the meeting only serves to show how unfounded some of the fears are regarding a mass influx of immigrants that simply aren’t expected to come to Pickens County. The differing opinions on extreme opposite ends of the spectrum reveal an emotional tug-of-war that exists in the Upstate…

This week, a posting on the Pickens County News Facebook page warned: “Do you want these children of unvetted Syrians coming in to your child’s public school and sitting beside your child?… cause if one of these kids brings a real bomb clock into the classroom and your child gets blown up…whose fault is it?”…

The Rev. Keith Ray, pastor of Clemson United Methodist Church and a former member of the Greenville County School Board, said he’s concerned about “an unfounded panic” over refugees coming here.

“We don’t need meetings to create panic and fear based on our own prejudices,” he said. “Instead, understanding more about the plight of those who are having to be relocated would be most helpful…

The State Department, which oversees the program, paints a different picture…

All refugees who enter the United States are screened by the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense, the official said… Read more here


While those who oppose refugee resettlement here have been making their voices heard the loudest lately, there’s also a large contingent of people who support offering help to those seeking asylum, according to Lee, the World Relief official.

More than 40 pastors and others representing churches across the Upstate signed a letter of support, he said…

[Rev. Jason Lee, the director of the Spartanburg branch of World Relief] took issue with claims that the Syrians coming in are “unvetted.”

“There’s no such thing as an unvetted refugee that comes in, period,” he said.

It takes 18-24 months to go through a 13-step security and health screening process before they can be approved, he said.

He said he invited the legislative delegations of Greenville and Spartanburg counties to a meeting in June to discuss the issue, and not one Upstate lawmaker attended.

“There’s a lot of political motivation in this and that’s unfortunate, because we’re driven by Christian charity,” he said…

Miji Bell, a spokesman for Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, the only other organization in the state approved to resettle refugees, said no Syrians have been relocated here. Read more here

Posted in faith-based, right-wing, South Carolina, Spartanburg, Syrian, World Relief, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Politicizing the unimaginable pain & suffering experienced by refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 9, 2015

Spartanburg_SCEmily Conrad, who “works in communications for an international textile firm in Spartanburg, S.C.”, is a “Phi Beta Kappa Wofford College graduate [and] founder of book blog, Global Book Challenge”, and has written a piece for Fitnews discussing the politicization of refugees’ plight in Spartanburg, S.C. by republican politicians and tea party activists. She points to the ugliness of, “a political system which is politicizing the unimaginable pain and suffering experienced by these refugees.” She describes these politicians as, “creating yet another politically insecure and potentially socially hostile environment for some of the weakest members of our global society; individuals who have experienced the most evil manifestations of humanity.” U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, the politician who has come out most vocally about refugees resettling in Spartanburg, wrote a public letter in early April claiming he was, “deeply concerned about the lack of notice, information, and consultation afforded to me and my constituents about this issue.” Yet, as a reader pointed out in a letter in the The Spartanburg Herald-Journal, she had been at a meeting in August 2014 about the possibility of World Relief opening an office in Spartanburg to resettle refugees, and that U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy had sent an official representative from his office to attend to the meeting. She expressed her disappointed with Gowdy’s efforts to play politics with the issue, and asked that he explain the discrepancy between his public letter and the actions of his local office. Below is Emily Conrad’s op-ed piece:

I’d like to tell you about a country where 5.4 million people are estimated to have died since 1998 – a number of almost “Holocaustic” proportions.  The bloody conflict responsible for so many causalities may surprise some…

[It is] the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly known as Zaire. A vast country in the middle of Sub-Saharan Africa, the Congo has long attracted the attention of westerners: King Leopold of Belgium made the extraction of the country’s resources the source of his personal wealth.  Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness was written following his travels in the country…

The Democratic Republic of the Congo also happens to be the country of origin for the first two refugees who have been recently resettled to Spartanburg, S.C. (with the support of faith-based organization World Relief and local churches).  These are the refugees whose entrance has caused so much ruckus and rabble-rousing from elected officials, most notably U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy…

I want to communicate my profound disappointment in a political system which is politicizing the unimaginable pain and suffering experienced by these refugees.  The politicians who have decided to question and cast doubts on the individuals entering our community are creating yet another politically insecure and potentially socially hostile environment for some of the weakest members of our global society; individuals who have experienced the most evil manifestations of humanity…

While Gowdy’s so-called “scrutiny” of this refugee resettlement community might seem to be a non-issue at first, it comes at a high moral cost – undermining the very foundational pillars of our country.  As we look back on our own personal family trees and our ancestors who immigrated to the United States, we see countless narratives of political and/or religious refugees…

The United States has provided a stable home, full of limitless opportunities, to generations of refugees and their descendants.  To deny this same home to generations of new refugees and their descendants is to deny our own history…

It is time to stop making the refugees entering Spartanburg a political issue and instead start making it an issue based on people…I hope that Spartanburg residents (and Representative Gowdy) will come to recognize these incoming refugees as deserving and worthy of our compassion and generosity… Read more here

Posted in Congolese, right-wing, South Carolina, unwelcoming communities, World Relief | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

USCRI having failed refugees & taxpayers in many states, opens new offices in others

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 6, 2011

USCRI office in Dillon, SC

Watch out Dillon, South Carolina. The USCRI has come to town, and oh, what a checkered history they bring with them. Having neglected refugees in Akron, Boston, Bowling Green, Chicago, Connecticut, Erie, Houston, Kansas City, New Hampshire, and Raleigh, they have decided to open new affiliates in other states — apparently to compensate for those that were shut down. An article at WPDE NewsChannel 15 announces the grand opening.

DILLON — Thursday morning, the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) held a grand opening ceremony for its office on Lockemy Highway in the city of Dillon.

Since 2007, refugees from the African country of Burundi have been migrating to Dillon. There are about 300 refugees who now live there. According to its website, the USCRI “protect the rights and address the needs of persons in forced or voluntary migration
worldwide by advancing fair and humane public policy, facilitating and providing direct professional services, and promoting the full participation of migrants in community life.”

The refugees fled their home country due to civil war that started in 1993. Some reports estimate that has many as 300,000 people have been killed.

Samuel Ndikumana is a native of Burundi and has lived in the United States for many years now. He says he’s been a legal citizen in this country since 2008. He works at the USCRI office in Dillon as a caseworker and translator…

…Samuel Ndikumana is a native of Burundi and has lived in the United States for many years now. He says he’s been a legal citizen in this country since 2008. He works at the USCRI office in Dillon as a caseworker and translator…

…He says the refugees came to Dillon County because of jobs. Ndikumana says the county has several plants, including Perdue and Harbor Freight Tools that employ many of the refugees. They also work at fast food restaurants and other businesses in the area… Read more here

Posted in Burundian, meatpacking industry, neglect, South Carolina, USCRI | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Increased numbers of refugees being resettled to Palmetto State

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 16, 2010

The numbers of refugees resettled to South Carolina has increased steadily since 2006, and most refugees are resettled to the Columbia area, according to an article in The Augusta Chronicle. Lutheran Family Services in South Carolina had problems in 2004 when residents of Cayce said they did not want Somali Bantus in their community.

South Carolina has about 150 refugees in the program now, with about 40 percent from Burma and 40 percent from Iraq.

If refugees have a family or friend in some part of South Carolina, they are typically sent there.

About 75 percent come with no ties and stay in the Columbia area. Numbers of refugees fleeing war or persecution have increased steadily since 2006, when the Palmetto State had 123 refugees, with recent federal funding per year about $370,000, according to federal data.

Sometimes residents pose a challenge.

The most notable resistance in South Carolina took place in 2004, when residents of Cayce said they did not want Somali Bantus in their community.

Residents said their schools could not accommodate the refugees’ children and that their tribal culture and Muslim faith were too foreign.

“LFS decided not to challenge that,” Jazic said. “We did not want to put refugees in a situation where they would not be welcome. Thank goodness there were others who said, ‘We can deal with it and work it out.’ ” here

Posted in Burma/Myanmar, faith-based, Iraqi, Lutheran Family Services of the Carolinas, Somali Bantu, South Carolina, unwelcoming communities | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


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