Ohio House urges Obama to halt Syrian refugee resettlement

By Jackie Borchardt, cleveland.com

November 17, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to urge President Obama not to accept refugees from Syria after it was reported one of the terrorists in Friday’s Paris attacks may have sought asylum in France.

The resolution, a symbolic gesture, was rushed to the House floor and cleared the GOP-controlled chamber largely along party lines, 63-24, after a heated debate lasting longer than an hour. Cleveland Reps. Bill Patmon and John Barnes Jr. were the only Democrats to vote for the measure.

On Monday, more than half the country’s governors, including Ohio Gov. John Kasich, opposed Obama’s policy to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees this year. The governors — all but one were Republican — cited concerns that the Department of Homeland Security can’t properly vet Syrian refugees.

Ohio is the first state to pass such a resolution, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. California passed a resolution urging more refugee resttlement.

The resolution’s sponsor, Rep. Tim Derickson, who is running for the congressional seat recently vacated by former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, said the measure is not about turning away refugees but about protecting the citizens who are already here.

“We must act now to prevent those wishing to commit acts of terror from entering our soil under the guise of refugee protection,” Derickson said on the House floor.

More than 4 million people have fled Syria since civil war began there in 2011, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Most have settled in Turkey.

Ohio has admitted 76 Syrian refugees since 2011, according to the U.S. Department of State. Nationally, 2,181 Syrian refugees have been resettled in the U.S. since then.

Rep. David Leland, a Columbus Democrat, said the resolution gives the militant group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) exactly what it wants — admission of fear. Leland quoted the poem on the Statute of Liberty — a gift from France — that says, “Give me your tired, your poor…”

“There’s no caveat on that statute that says ‘unless we’re afraid of you,'” Leland said. “That’s who we are as a people, that’s who we’ve been as a people, that’s what makes the United States of America different from every other country in the world.”