South Carolina has been at the forefront of the battle against President Obama's refugee resettlement plans for nearly a year, with grassroots activists fighting not only the White House but their own Republican Gov. Nikki Haley.
Since that time, it has become apparent to South Carolina conservatives, including many who voted for Haley, that she is a supporter of Obama's drive to convert millions of recent immigrants into "new Americans" by the time he leaves office, using not only the United Nations refugee pipeline but also a steady influx of illegal immigrants from Central America.
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Haley has supported the president's plan to bring in refugees from jihadist hotspots like Syria and Iraq, the activists say, while also quietly embracing Obama's resettlement of illegal Central American children in their state, using the family courts to secretly place them in communities without their knowledge or approval.
So now they're taking their battle against Haley into the courtroom, filing a lawsuit against the governor, the State Department of Social Services, and two church-based organizations that help the government transplant refugees not only in South Carolina but dozens of cities and towns across America.
The suit seeks to halt all resettlement of refugees in South Carolina "until a full accounting of any and all federal money used in this program and specifically where it was allocated and how allocated (and) in which counties."
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South Carolina's brouhaha over refugees erupted in March 2015 when a local newspaper ran an article "announcing" that World Relief Corp. planned to partner with churches and resettle about a dozen Syrians in the Spartanburg area. Secretary of State John Kerry dispatched his top refugee overseer, Assistant Secretary of State Anne Richard, to the Palmetto state to calm nerves.
Thus far no Syrians have been sent to Spartanburg and only three have been placed in the state, near Columbia.
The plaintiff in the civil case is Brian Bilbro, a husband and father of two young girls who lives near Columbia in Richland County and works in medical sales. He says he and other South Carolina families have not had their concerns addressed, or even taken seriously, by Haley's administration or the state legislature.
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"I'm not a part of any rightwing groups, not involved with the NRA, just a normal taxpaying citizen who is concerned for the safety of his family," Bilbro told WND.
"Over the past year I've really become aware and concerned about what's going on in our world and our country and the fact that the Muslim states have really taken it up a notch toward Christians and people like myself," Bilbro added. "I'm not an Islamophobe but I'm just observing and if anyone can't look at Europe and see what's happening there then they have their heads in the sand. These people are getting very aggressive and I look at my daughters not as people they can do what they want with. I want to protect them. I just said, somebody's got to stand up and make a stand, so really I did it for our children and the children of our state."
Bilbro attended a legislative committee hearing on refugees in Columbia last month but didn't feel like his concerns were taken seriously by the lawmakers.
"One senator said it's just the way the world is now, that we live in a more dangerous world, and tough luck. He didn't care that 26 citizens had expressed their concerns," Bilbro said.
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Haley endorses 'amnesty' candidate Rubio
Even though South Carolina is a heavily Republican state, with a key presidential primary looming on Saturday, it remains under the control of the establishment wing of the party, a fact that is borne out by the string of recent endorsements: South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham has endorsed Jeb Bush for president, while the state's other senator, Tim Scott, has endorsed Marco Rubio, and Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., has endorsed Rubio.
But tea party-type activists say the most stunning betrayal has come from Haley. After first saying she would not endorse a candidate prior to the March 1 primary, Haley announced Wednesday she is falling in line with the other state Republican leaders and backing Rubio, author of the 2013 Gang of Eight immigration bill that conservatives called "amnesty."
Just last month, Haley was quoted in the Washington Post saying: "Marco Rubio believes in amnesty, which I don't." She later walked back the comments when it was clear she had caused problems for the Rubio campaign in South Carolina.
The rise of Donald Trump in this state illustrates just how far from their base the one-time tea party darlings – Haley, Gowdy and Scott – have strayed.
According to the latest CNN/ORC poll, Trump is running away from the GOP pack in South Carolina while beating the drum against illegal immigration, Muslim immigration, and refugee resettlement.
Conservative firebrand and Trump supporter Ann Coulter on Wednesday heaped scorn on Haley for endorsing Rubio.
Coulter was also critical of Haley after the governor took clear aim at Trump during her Republican response to the president's State of the Union speech on Jan. 12. Haley warned against rhetoric that would threaten "the dream that is America" for others.
Trump has 38 percent support among South Carolinians likely to vote in Saturday's primary, followed by Ted Cruz with 22 percent, Rubio with 14 percent and Bush with 10 percent.
South Carolina has not historically been a major landing point for foreign refugees. Only 1,858 have been sent to the state since 2002, according to the federal refugee database, compared to more than 75,000 sent to Texas over the same period. But, with the backing of the state's powerful hotel and hospitality industry along with others in the business community, the state's GOP leaders have warmed up to the idea of becoming more "welcoming" of foreign labor.
'Rubber stamping' green card applications
Jessica Vaughan, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, filed an affidavit in the South Carolina suit against Haley's cooperation with the Obama resettlement plan.
Vaughan said she was contacted by Lauren Martel, an attorney who practices family law in the Hilton Head Island area and is representing the plaintiff, Bilbro.
"Lauren started noticing some things. She became concerned, because of what she was seeing in family court in Beaufort County with the unaccompanied alien children," Vaughan said.
Martel noticed the courts were increasingly "rubber stamping" the issuance of green cards for minors without seeing any proof that they were actually under a threat of violence and abuse in their home countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, Vaughan said.
"These kids claim to be abused and neglected in their home country without any corroboration by anybody," she said. "It's just their words, their statement and claim, whereas if an American were involved the courts would require more documentation for issuing restraining orders or any other sort of benefits from the state."
"She (Martel) asked me where these kids were coming from and I said they're being placed there by the Office of Refugee Resettlement within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and these are the same people talking about bringing in Syrian refugees to South Carolina," Vaughan added.
"It's the same government agency, the same nonprofit contractors, and the same process whereby the local community doesn't get a say, and the citizens believe the state isn’t fulfilling its obligations under the law to allow local communities to object and they're upset about the costs imposed on the community as a result of the government bringing in large groups of refugees as well as the UACs."
While the refugee issue has been a major source of discord in South Carolina for months, most of the presidential candidates would rather not talk about it. The issue almost never comes up in the GOP debates, and when it does the candidates have glossed over their previous support for refugees and amnesty for illegals.
Rubio, for example, was an author of the Gang of Eight bill that cleared the Senate in 2013 under the banner of "immigration reform." The bill, which died in the House, would have expanded refugee resettlement, doubled the number of green cards and more than tripled the number of H1-B foreign guest-workers allowed into the country each year.
Rubio, Cruz, Bush and John Kasich have all been critical of Trump's plan to temporarily halt all Muslim immigration, including those coming as refugees.
The security risk of Muslim refugees has especially concerned many South Carolinians. They cite FBI Director James Comey's October 2015 testimony before Congress in which he said it was virtually impossible to confirm the identities of the vast majority of Syrian refugees.
The U.S. already issues more than 120,000 green cards per year to persons from Muslim-dominated countries with Pakistan, Iraq and Bangladesh among the top recipients of the coveted cards, which provide lawful permanent residency and an inside track to full citizenship.
The U.S. has issued a staggering 680,000 green cards to individuals from Muslim countries over a five-year period under President Obama.
The U.S. issues two green cards to Muslims each year for every one South Carolina birth.
The U.S. is currently taking in a record number of legal immigrants at 1.1 million per year. It admits nearly six migrants (temporary guest-workers, students and permanent residents) for every one South Carolina birth.
Up to 40,000 Muslims come to the U.S. each year as refugees, with the majority coming from failed states such as Somalia, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, where law enforcement records on their backgrounds are inadequate or nonexistent.
"There are many problems, and to me the two most concerning problems are the refugees being brought in even though the federal government doesn't have the ability to screen them, and second, these juveniles who are brought in from Central America and then the government not screening them, losing track of them, and in many areas of the country causing problems," Vaughan said. "So my affidavit was filed to say there are going to be some costs and risks associated with this program in South Carolina. It focuses on costs and risks of those two key programs run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement and how the communities ought to have more of a role and the state ought to be held accountable for its role in facilitating these resettlements. These are genuinely areas of concern that cannot be brushed aside."
High welfare costs and cultural tensions
Along with the security risks are the costs of refugee resettlement. The program itself costs more than $2 billion a year to administer, but that doesn't count the heavy welfare usage among refugees nor the costs of educating their children.
Data from the Office of Refugee Resettlement shows that 91 percent of refugees from the Middle East use food stamps, and 68 percent receive cash benefits. And once the Muslim population grows to a certain level, the costs only escalate as demands grow for costly concessions such as the installation of ritual footbaths in public schools -- a source of contention now in some Minnesota school districts.
Then there are the cultural costs. Thousands of Muslim girls are at risk of female genital mutilation in the United States, according to Daniel Akbari, a former top Shariah lawyer in Iran who defected to the U.S. in 2008 and authored the book, "Honor Killings: A Professional's Guide to Sexual Relations and Ghayra Violence from the Islamic Sources."
A recent case in Phoenix, Arizona, involved Mohamed Abdullahi, a 30-year-old refugee from Somalia resettled in the state by Catholic Charities. He entered into a “Nikah,” which is an arranged Islamic marriage, with the parents of an 18-year-old Muslim woman.
Phoenix police arrested him April 22, 2015, on charges of kidnapping and sexual assault. The Arizona Republic reported that his bride-to-be was brought to his apartment that day by her parents, against her will.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, told Fox News that such violence has "no basis in the Islamic faith."
Apparently CAIR has not read verse 4:34 of the Quran.
“Chapter 4, verse 34, of the Quran expressly says if a woman does not comply with her husband’s command he has the right to beat her, and that is what you see happening here and what has happened over 1,400 years," Akbari said. “What is going on here in Phoenix is totally Islamic, under Shariah."
Akbari said it’s time U.S. media stopped falling for the “explain it away” propaganda put out by CAIR.
According to the Arizona Republic, the woman’s parents arranged the marriage with Abdullahi and their daughter in November 2014 without her knowledge, according to court records. When the woman learned of the marriage, she fled the state but returned 15 days later to finish high school, police said.
The woman’s parents drove her to Abdullahi’s apartment. Once she was inside, Abdullahi reportedly punched her in the left eye, causing her to fall to the ground, according to court records.
Abdullahi then allegedly grabbed his future bride around the throat and began strangling her while she was on the ground.
At that point, Abdullahi dragged the woman into the bedroom and proceeded to rape her, police said.
Defendants include Christian nonprofit groups
Bilbro's suit names four defendants: Gov. Haley, DSS directors Susan Alford and Dorothy Addison, World Relief Spartanburg (Jason Lee director) and Lutheran Services Carolinas. World Relief has been working to place refugees from Syria and elsewhere in the Greenville-Spartanburg or "upstate" area of South Carolina while the Lutherans have been working to place refugees in and around the state capital of Columbia.
North Carolina-based Lutheran Services Carolinas reported 2014 revenues of $15.3 million and Baltimore-based World Relief reported revenues of more than $52 million for 2014.
The suit was filed Feb. 12 in the state's Fifth Circuit Court of Common Pleas in Columbia (Case #CP-40-00918). The civil action seeks a motion for temporary injunction, temporary restraining order and appointment of a receiver.
"My grandmother used to tell me it's better to be safe than sorry," Bilbro told WND. "That's a very basic statement but if we have our FBI director telling us we don't have the ability to vet these people properly then I think we need to stop and figure out what's going on with these refugees coming into our country. Even if it's just 1 percent who are bad that's still an enormous amount of people who are going to be spread out around our country, and we've already seen what's beginning to happen in Germany, France, Belgium and even Dearborn, Michigan, when they come in and don't want to assimilate."
Bilbro said he hopes there won't be a backlash against him or his family for filing the lawsuit.
"God I hope not. I just want the safety of my family. I'm going to do it anyway and pray God's got his hand of protection on me," he said. "I don't want anything, I just want our kids to be safe, and our tax dollars to be spent correctly, not on people who are going to try to hurt us."
Martel said the state Legislature is not really organized to act quickly and that is why her client felt compelled to seek redress in the courts.
"They can't do anything as quickly as we believe it's needed because every day that goes by we have tax dollars being used as they shouldn't be," Martel said. "We hope the court will look at the totality of our pleadings and all of our experts who have filed affidavits."
Bilbro said he hopes the court system will be more open minded than most of the lawmakers he encountered at the Capitol.
"You can express your feelings before a subcommittee, you can express yourself on Facebook and you can write articles but where is it getting us?" he said. "Unless a judge slams down a hammer and issues a ruling, nothing's going to be done."