Some are calling it the "height of hypocrisy," bordering on demagoguery.
Nikki Haley, South Carolina's Republican governor, came out last Thursday and blasted possible White House plans to bring Guantanamo Bay prisoners to her state.
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The governor called a news conference and didn't mince words.
"We are absolutely drawing a line that we are not going to allow any terrorist to come into South Carolina," Haley said. "We are not going to allow that kind of threat, we are not going to allow that kind of character to come in.
"My job is to protect the people of this state, and I take that very personally," she continued. "I will take that personally the entire way through, so that the president, the Congress and anyone involved in this decision understands they are not wanted, they are not needed, and we will not accept them in South Carolina."
Yet, at the same time she was drawing a red line against Gitmo terrorists who would stay locked in a brig off the coast of Charleston, Haley was opening her arms wide to welcome "refugees" from jihadist strongholds in the Middle East and Africa.
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World Relief, an evangelical aid agency that gets paid by the federal government to resettle refugees in the U.S. from places like Somalia and Syria, hatched plans more than a year ago to add Spartanburg, South Carolina, to the list of more than 190 U.S. cities receiving foreign refugees.
As WND has reported in a series of more than 35 articles over the past year, the refugee program has been fraught with problems. Chief among them has been young men entering the U.S. as refugees and turning out to be terrorists. Some, such as the two Iraqis in Bowling Green, Kentucky, or the Uzbek man resettled in Boise, Idaho, harbored ill intent against America from day one. But others, such as the six Somalis from Minnesota who were arrested after repeatedly trying to join ISIS, or the two brothers who bombed the Boston Marathon, were radicalized after they came to the U.S. as young boys.
According to a document released Aug. 11 by Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., at least 72 cases have been documented in just the past year of suspected Muslims arrested on terrorist-related charges. Sessions is asking the Obama administration to clarify their immigration status but all are believed to be either immigrants or children of recent immigrants.
So when World Relief's plans were finally made public in March, it set off a wave of grassroots opposition in Spartanburg. Residents were angry they had not been consulted about the new arrivals, nor were they given information on the impact refugees will have on schools, housing and labor markets. Not to mention the national security risks that almost nobody wanted to talk about.
The resistance movement spreads
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Spartanburg's resistance to the secret planting of refugees into their community has since spread to St. Cloud, Minnesota, Twin Falls, Idaho, and Fargo, North Dakota, with uprisings brewing in Ohio and Michigan as well, WND reported earlier this month.
Every state except Wyoming has agreed to participate in the federal government's refugee resettlement program, which gets its authority from the Refugee Act of 1980, signed by President Jimmy Carter.
The State Department works in concert with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres to permanently settle refugees in the U.S. The U.N. assigns refugees to various countries and it is the duty of the host country to screen them for criminal activity and ties to terrorist organizations.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., whose district includes Spartanburg, pressured Secretary of State John Kerry for answers to citizens' questions, but wasn't satisfied with the answers he received. If anyone in Congress should be familiar with the program it should be Gowdy, who chairs the House subcommittee in charge of overseeing immigration and refugees.
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Kerry dispatches top deputy to South Carolina
Kerry sent one of his top lieutenants to Spartanburg earlier this week to try to quell the uprising.
Assistant Secretary of State Anne Richard arrived Monday for what was designed to be a private meeting with stakeholders, including the mayor, police, housing and school officials. Protesters outside the meeting were allowed in, turning a private meeting semi-public at the last minute, one protester told WND.
"I wanted a public hearing. Trey Gowdy wanted a public meeting. World Relief would not hold a public hearing," the protester said. "So Anne Richard had to come down here to clean up their mess."
Haley has come down on the side of the State Department and the refugees, saying she trusts the vetting process, despite hundreds of arrests and active investigations involving refugees or children of refugees across the U.S. She has chosen to believe the State Department over the FBI, which is responsible for screening the refugees and warned that in some cases it's an impossible task.
'Jihadist pipeline' remains wide open
One of the FBI's top counter-terrorism experts testified to Congress in February that the U.S. lacks the capability to vet refugees from "failed states" like Syria.
The U.S. has no "boots on the ground," in Syria, like it did in Iraq, and therefore has no access to reliable law enforcement data, said Michael Steinbach, deputy director of the FBI's counter-terrorism unit.
Haley also seems content to ignore the warnings of Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee. McCaul has expressed serious concerns about the Syrian refugees, calling the program a possible "jihadist pipeline" to the U.S.
McCaul has written two letters to President Obama urging him not to proceed with plans to import thousands of Syrian refugees over the next year and a half. Of the more than 1,200 Syrians who have already entered the U.S. as refugees, 95 percent have been Muslim compared to 3.8 percent Christian. Those skewed numbers belie the situation on the ground in Syria, where more than 350,000 Christians have been run out of their homes, fleeing the bloodlust of ISIS radicals.
While Haley has thrown out the welcome mat for potentially thousands of Muslim refugees who will walk the streets of South Carolina cities, she has condemned in the strongest words any plan to allow Gitmo prisoners.
The Pentagon is considering the Charleston Naval brig as a possible destination for the terrorists if Gitmo is ultimately closed down. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, is also being considered, and Kansas' Republican Gov. Sam Brownback has similarly sounded off against the idea while also welcoming Muslim refugees to his state.
Watch Gov. Nikki Haley's stern denouncement of possible federal plans to bring Gitmo prisoners to Charleston, S.C.
South Carolina activists say they wish Haley would be as willing to go to the mat for citizens' safety when it comes to U.N.-selected refugees as she is with regard to Gitmo prisoners.
"Gov. Haley made a big deal out of saying no to Gitmo. It was an angry Haley on the air, every TV station, angry about the possibility of Gitmo prisoners coming here," said Christina Jeffrey, co-founder of Spartans for Biblical Immigration who has helped lead the grassroots effort against the refugee program in Spartanburg.
"Those Gitmo prisoners, they're going to be locked up, not living next door to anyone, not going to our schools, our stores or anywhere they can do us any harm; they're going to be locked up," Jeffrey said. "The refugees are a much bigger threat to the community and she says she supports that program and trusts the vetting process."
Jeffrey gives Haley credit for supporting a proviso added to the state budget this year that allows local councils to reject refugee funding from flowing into their counties. She said she "remains hopeful" that Haley will cancel the agreement with World Relief.
Haley's press secretary did not respond to requests for comment from WND.
49 states receive refugees, but some more than others
South Carolina has historically not been a major destination for foreign refugees.
Since 2002, the federal government has sent only 1,730 refugees to the state. By contrast, Texas, California, New York, Florida, Michigan and Minnesota have each received more than 30,000 refugees since 2002. California has received the most refugees over that period, at 91,050, according to State Department data, followed by Texas at 70,057. North Carolina has also received many more refugees than its neighbor to the south, taking in 25,276 since 2002.
So it's unclear why Haley is agreeing to ramp up the number of refugees coming into her state. Some speculate that she may be angling for a cabinet post in the next administration and wants to prove her commitment to a cause that is near and dear to the GOP establishment's heart.
The refugee program sends hundreds of cheap foreign workers into corporate-owned food processing plants every year. Meatpacking plants in Willmar, Minnesota, Amarillo, Texas, Bowling Green, Kentucky, and a new plant being built near Boise, Idaho, all benefit from large infusions of refugees into nearby cities and towns.
Where is Trey Gowdy on refugees?
Gowdy's role in the refugee uprising remains murky.
He has the power to call a congressional hearing on the program and have it fully investigated but he has settled for writing letters and holding private meetings with State Department officials.
He asked for a public hearing but never got one.
"Is Trey Gowdy a principled man? Yes. But somehow, this issue is tougher for him than Benghazi or Hillary," said Jeffrey, the former historian for the U.S. House of Representatives. "Why? Because the Chamber of Commerce is on board (with the refugee program). But they are wrong! Culture matters; security matters. Our lives and the lives of our children matter."
Also working to support the refugee program are a handful churches in Spartanburg.
World Relief first made contact with a group of local pastors in 2013, and plans were secretly laid to add Spartanburg to the list of 190 U.S. cities taking in refugees. Word did not leak out to the public until March 2015, shortly before the first refugees were to arrive.
"The questions Trey Gowdy asked of Secretary Kerry in April still haven't been answered," said Jeffrey. "And he asked for a moratorium. I brought that up in the meeting with Anne Richard this week. We need a moratorium. World Relief hasn't told anybody anything. Apparently the pastors did not consult their congregations. Few who should have been informed have actually been informed. Our mayor wasn't; our police chief wasn't. I know this first hand because I asked them."
Jeffrey said Richard admitted in Monday's meeting that once a state agrees to participate in the federal refugee program, there is little local residents can do to stop it.
Another Spartanburg resident, Lynn Kisler, confronted Richard on the issue of national security.
"Ms. Richard said she experiences terrorist threats whenever she travel overseas, and it was almost like they were already trying to condition us for that, kinda like a terrorist threat is an accepted way of life now, no big deal, and I could not believe my ears," said Kisler. "I told her my house doesn’t have armed guards, it doesn't have an 8-foot wall all around it, so for her to compare an embassy abroad to me being in my home among that population, when they want to bring that population here, it made me angry. I interrupted her and I said 'you have armed guards, I don't have armed guards.'"
Refugees just like American pilgrims?
Richard also began "pontificating" about how successful the refugee program has been everywhere it has been put in place, Kisler said. The assistant secretary even compared today's refugees to the early pilgrims who settled America.
"I asked her how do you define success?" Kisler said. "Ask the people of St. Cloud, Minnesota, how successful it's been there. It has destroyed that area."
So many Somalis in Minnesota have been caught engaging in terrorist activity and sending money to overseas terrorists that the U.S. Attorney there, Andrew Luger, admitted in April that, "We have a terror recruitment problem in Minnesota."
But where does that leave Spartanburg, which was in line for an initial batch of 60 refugees this year and potentially hundreds more in succeeding years?
"I think World Relief is going to send as many as they can find jobs for and wait till next year and try to get rid of the state proviso allowing local councils to veto," Jeffrey said. "And you saw the response to the Confederate Flag issue earlier this year (after the Charleston church shooting) so these are not profiles in courage we're talking about (at the state Capitol)."
At least half of the 70,000 refugees resettled in the U.S. annually come from Muslim-dominated, shariah-compliant countries such as Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and now Syria. Even Buddhist Burma, which wants to get rid of its Muslim minority, has started sending its unwanted Muslims to U.N. refugee camps where they will be destined for the U.S. and other Western countries.
"For the sake of the rest of the country, we need Trey Gowdy, chairman of the subcommittee with oversight in this area to hold hearings on this under-supervised program that has been around since Jimmy Carter created it," Jeffrey said.