Syrian refugees are being settled in South Carolina, despite a request from Gov. Nikki Haley that they not be placed in the state because of security concerns.
According to the state Department of Social Services, which manages and administers federal funding for refugee programs, earlier this month one pair of Syrians was settled in the Midlands through Lutheran Services Carolinas, a private resettlement agency in the state that assists refugees, and more Syrians are on their way. It has not been made public where in the Midlands.
“The Department of Social Services has been notified by Lutheran Services Carolinas that another family from Syria has been approved for resettlement in the State,” DSS spokeswoman Karen Wingo told The Greenville News. “However, the Department does not have any additional information at this time regarding their estimated date of arrival or planned location of placement.”
The federal government did not communicate with Haley’s office that it was resettling the Syrians in South Carolina, according to the Governor’s Office. The governor learned of the resettlements through DSS and a resettlement agency.
Last month, Haley asked Secretary of State John Kerry not to place any of the Syrian refugees in South Carolina because of concerns of inadequate security checks and the possibility that some terrorists might infiltrate the thousands of refugees being processed for settlement into the United States.
“After reviewing recent public statements and personally speaking today with intelligence officials, it is my understanding that while our national security agencies are working tirelessly to vet potential refugees, there remain gaps in available intelligence for those fleeing Syria,” she wrote. “Therefore, until I can be assured that all potential refugees from Syria have no ties to terrorist organizations, I am requesting that the State Department not resettle any Syrian refugees in South Carolina.”
When asked this week about the resettlement of Syrian refugees in South Carolina, a State Department official told The News that while some governors have expressed concerns about such resettlements, other states “have come out strongly in support of the resettlement program.”
“The Department of State consults extensively with state and local governments across the country, from the governor’s office to local law enforcement, schools and social services agencies,” the official said. “Fortunately, over 180 cities and towns nationwide have demonstrated an admirable commitment to welcome refugees. They recognize the positive contribution refugees make to their communities.”
The Governor’s Office notified law enforcement officials about the Syrians’ arrival.
The Syrians, like all refugees in the state, can avail themselves of services paid for by the federal government that include cash and medical assistance for up to eight months and various social services such as job preparation training, citizenship preparation, vocational and English language training, for up to five years.
“Federal law prevents the state or county from denying placement of refugees in South Carolina,” Wingo said. “Furthermore, the Department of Social Services is legally prohibited from discriminating in the provision of benefits on the basis of national origin. Therefore, any Syrian refugees resettled in South Carolina, presently or in the future, will be able to avail themselves of all services provided by the Department of Social Services for which they qualify.”
South Carolina has participated in the Refugee Resettlement Program since 1975.
DSS has been designated by the Governor’s Office as the agency responsible for administration of the program but is not involved in the admittance or placement of refugees, Wingo said. The federal government pays for all costs of the program, vets all applicants and approves all refugees for placement, she said.