Lancaster County Legislators Respond to Syrian Refugee Crisis and Potential Terrorist Threats
11/17/2015
HARRISBURG – In response to Governor Wolf’s announcement yesterday that Pennsylvania would continue to accept and host Syrian refugees, Lancaster County legislators wrote the Governor to confirm that the refugees being relocated to the Commonwealth have no ties to extremist groups and that they have not engaged or aided in terroristic activities.

“The terrorist attacks in Paris serve as a stark reminder that the intent of some to destroy the democratic freedoms and values we so enjoy remains strong,” wrote Senators Ryan Aument (R-West Hempfield), Lloyd Smucker (R-West Lampeter) and Representatives Dave Hickernell (R-West Donegal), Bryan Cutler (R-Peach Bottom), Mindy Fee (R-Manheim), Keith Greiner (R- Upper Leacock), Steve Mentzer (R-Manheim Township), Brett Miller (R-East Hempfield) and Dave Zimmerman (R-East Earl).

The letter requests that the Governor outline his authority to continue to allow Syrian refugees to relocate to Pennsylvania. 

Read the letter here.

“Many other Governors and states are taking a different approach now that we know terrorists are using this humanitarian crisis as an opportunity to find passage to other countries,” said Senator Smucker.  “We cannot allow our willingness to help to be used against us.”

“My chief concern is that Governor Wolf is taking seriously the need to effectively coordinate with the federal government, which is authorizing these relocations,” echoed Senator Aument.  “No screening is full-proof and this is an instance where government cannot fail the people.”

The letter also requests that the Governor outline what he has done to ensure that the refugees being relocated to Pennsylvania have no ties to extremist groups or have engaged or aided in terrorist activities.

“Given the gravity of what could occur, we cannot just trust that all of the Syrian refugees coming to Pennsylvania and Lancaster County are fleeing the war-torn Middle East,” said Representative Hickernell.  “We have to verify their identities, histories and know for certain they do not pose a real and present danger to the homeland.”

“I haven’t talked to anyone who doesn’t sincerely sympathize with people being dislocated from their homes because of the ongoing violence in Syria,” said Representative Fee.  “But those same constituents want to ensure that we are not being manipulated by terrorists that are intent on destroying us.”

“Pennsylvania’s history is founded on accepting those fleeing persecution,” said Representative Bryan Cutler.  “The Amish know this very well, having come to Lancaster in the 1720s to escape persecution in Europe for their Anabaptist beliefs.  

However, there is a real difference between those that seek peace and security and those that would use this opportunity to advance terrorism.  Like every other American, I will never forgot those that perished on September 11, 2001, including the souls that gave their last full measure in the skies over Pennsylvania.”

The lawmakers noted that since Governor Wolf’s announcements yesterday, their offices have busy fielding calls from concerned citizens.

“I cannot recall a recent issue which has sparked more concern,” said Representative Greiner.  “People are genuinely worried and I certainly understand why.  One of the government’s top priorities is to keep people safe, and we cannot fail in that effort.”

“The safety and security of our citizens can never be compromised,” noted Representative Mentzer.  “The constituents that are contacting me want assurances that the systems being used to screen the refugees are robust and that they work.  Even one failure could result in a catastrophic situation.”

“The Governor has a responsibility to utilize the resources we have at the state level to compliment the federal effort,” said Representative Zimmerman.  “I encourage him to task our state Homeland Security Director with developing protocols and coordinating with state and local law enforcement to ensure an attack does not happen here.”

“Lancaster County is special because we do care about those in the world that suffer,” said Representative Miller.  “Whether it is a natural disaster or a situation such as the one in Syria, good people help.  However, that willingness to help should never be confused for weakness and we must do all that we can to protect and defend our people.”

The lawmakers requested a response from the Governor regarding their concerns.  A copy of the letter was also sent to Congressman Joe Pitts and Marcus Brown, Pennsylvania’s Director of Homeland Security.

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