The Concerned Coalition Alliance of Delaware includes the 9-12 Delaware Patriots, the Faith and Freedom Coalition Delaware, Central Delaware NAACP, the Rev. Dr. Shawn Greener, the Frederick Douglass Foundation of Delaware Sussex County, and the Institute on the Constitution – Delaware.
A vocal coalition of Delawareans is calling upon Gov. Jack Markell to reconsider his stance on admitting those they called “Syrian refugees” into the First State.
In a rain-drenched noon Thursday press conference held in front of Legislative Hall, Karen Gritton, executive director of the 9-12 Delaware Patriots, said Markell should join 31 other governors in rejecting the refugees.
The Concerned Coalition Alliance of Delaware includes her group, the Faith and Freedom Coalition Delaware, Central Delaware NAACP, the Rev. Dr. Shawn Greener, the Frederick Douglass Foundation of Delaware Sussex County, and the Institute on the Constitution – Delaware, she said.
In an open letter to Markell, Gritton said the request was made out of “concern for the safety and economic health” of Delaware families.
Bringing these refugees into Delaware would put undue strain on the First State’s already stressed budget and put them in a culture that is “completely foreign to the Islamic world view,” far from their homelands, she said.
Additionally, the refugees could pose a security risk since there is no sure way to fully investigate their backgrounds, Gritton said.
Any exiles should be settled in the Middle East, but away from the fighting in the region, Gritton said.
Markell’s office, however, said that while the governor supports the immigration of refugees, the matter is out of his hands.
“Contrary to what the coalition is asserting, the settlement of refugees is done by the federal government, not by the states,” Markell spokeswoman Kelly Bachman told the Dover Post.
“As we have said previously, the federal government’s refugee system has the highest level of security checks for any travelers to American shores, and federal officials have outlined ways they have appropriately strengthened these checks,” Bachman said.
Refugee families face innumerable difficulties while fleeing for their safety and despite this still must wait up to two years before any request to come to the United States is approved, she said.
“The governor continues to believe that rejecting them would run counter to our national values, and that states should also adhere to federal law, which does not provide governors the right to refuse them,” Bachman said.
Gritton acknowledged the refugee situation is a federal concern, but said Markell could fight resettlement should he choose to do so.
One way would be to deny them access to any taxpayer supported assistance, she said.
“We believe that our governor has the right and the ability to block funding,” Gritton said. Without welfare or food stamp funding to rely on, the refugees would not want to come to Delaware and the federal government would hesitate before sending them here, she said.
Their press conference and the letter to Markell let the governor know how Delawareans feel about the situation, Gritton said. Her coalition represents more than 10,000 Delaware families who feel the system used to vet refugees has failed and is insufficient to protect Americans from future immigrants. The Tsarnaev brothers who bombed the Boston Marathon were examples of terrorists who escaped detection, despite their radical views, she added.
Gritton denied the coalition was focusing on Muslims, saying she was concerned all refugees.
“This is about people who have ill intent to this country,” she said.
La Mar T. Gunn, president of the Central Delaware Branch, NAACP, said that in his view, Delaware first must solve problems at home before worrying about people coming into the state. Gunn implied immigrants would end up living in the poorer parts of the state, thus taxing resources needed by others.
Markell took an oath to support the people of Delaware, he said, adding, “In my opinion, that’s not happening.”
Bringing the NAACP into the fight to keep out refugees perfectly aligns with its mission of eliminating racial hatred and discrimination, Gunn said.
“Right now, I believe and the NAACP believes, in helping people, all races, backgrounds and colors. That’s the point I’m trying to make to you and others,” he said.
People in Dover, not far away from Legislative Hall, still must stand in line to get clean water or to receive food, he said.
“So before we talk about Syrian refugees, let’s talk about our own brothers and sisters, right here in Dover,” Gunn said.
Sen. Dave Lawson, R-Marydel, echoed Gritton’s comments about refugees possibly posing a threat, particularly if they end up in crime-ridden communities.
“This isn’t a big heart issue, this is a common sense issue,” he said. Refugees don’t want to come to America, so efforts should be made to settle them in places where they’d be comfortable.
“There are areas in that part of the world where they’re accustomed to what goes on there and they’d be far more comfortable there,” he said.
Markell should pull any funding needed to support refugees as a way of telling the federal government the émigrés are not wanted in the state, Lawson said. With the state projected to have a multi-million dollar deficit in 2016, it cannot afford to support refugees, he added.
“From a simple fiscal standpoint, this is not a wise decision,” Lawson said.
Gritton said she wasn’t sure if Markell would heed the wishes of the people she and the coalition represent.
“I don’t know. I hope that he will, that’s all I can say, I hope that he will.”