Passaic County: We’ll welcome Syrian refugees with open arms
In a pointed rebuke to Gov. Chris Christie, Passaic County's freeholders affirmed they'll welcome Syrian refugees with open arms — saying it's their obligation under the law, and as human beings.
"By attempting to refuse Syrian refugees entrance to New Jersey and instructing State agencies not to assist the federal government in relocating Syrian refugees, Gov. Christie proposes to violate the U.S. Constitution, which, as a governor and before that a United States Attorney, he swore to uphold," the freeholders wrote in a resolution passed Tuesday.
The freeholders wrote that as representatives of one of the most diverse communities in the world — a county where one in four residents is an immigrant or the child of an immigrant — "Passaic County reaffirms that it is a place where all are welcome and where those fleeing persecution may find safe refuge."
Christie earlier this month joined the ranks of governors telling the federal government their states won’t accept Syrian refugees — though it’s not clear he has any authority to turn them away entirely.
In a letter to President Barack Obama, Christie said his first priority is keeping New Jersey safe, and “the threat posed to New Jersey by ISIS is very real.”
In his letter to Obama — sent following terrorist attacks in Paris that left 130 dead — Christie quoted FBI Director James Comey, speaking at a congressional hearing last month: “We can query our database until the cows come home, but there will be nothing show up because we have no record of them.”
(The full quote was actually preceded by “If someone has never made a ripple in the pond in Syria in a way that would get their identity or their interest reflected in our database …” — though that wasn’t reflected in Christie’s letter).
Christie said when the federal government places a refugee with the help of a nongovernmental organization, the host state isn’t notified.
“As a result, New Jersey is left to depend upon the broken federal monitoring system described by the FBI director to ensure that a person places here is not a threat to our residents,” Christie wrote.
He referenced the case of a New Jersey man who pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material support to ISIS — though that man was reportedly raised by a Catholic mother and a Jewish father in Fort Lee. Christie also noted New Jersey borders New York, a prime target for terrorists.
In their resolution, the freeholders wrote that Christie's public remarks "indicate a misunderstanding of the rigorous refugee screening process already in place, and of the cohort of Syrian refugees being admitted to the United States — of whom half are children, and only two percent are single men of combat age."
According to recent statistics compiled by the United Nations, there are more than 4.2 million registered Syrian refugees. Of those, 49.7 percent are male, and 50.3 percent are female. About half are children under 17 years of age. In all, about 22 percent are males between the ages of 18 and 59.
The United States typically accepts 70,000 refugees from the global population per year. President Barack Obama has said the U.S. will accept another 10,000 Syrian refugees, though he's been met by opposition in several states and in Congress.
While Christie didn't outline any measures to prevent the federal government and nongovernmental organizations from placing refugees in New Jersey, he said in his letter state agencies would not assist with their placement, and urged organizations to let the state know about refugees they've worked with.
In their resolution, the freeholders noted refugees are subject to a 14-step screening process that typically takes between 18 months and two years.
"The County of Passaic has a rich history of opening its arms and homes to immigrants and to the vulnerable and disadvantaged," the freeholders wrote. "And those newcomers have consistently helped build a bright future in the county for their families and all of us.
The freeholders' full resolution is below: