When state senators return to Columbia on Tuesday, one piece of legislation atop the agenda for debate would require incoming refugees to South Carolina be registered with the state so they can be monitored.
Senate conservatives are pushing the proposal in response to public fears about Islamic terrorists and sympathizers hidden among the thousands of Syrian and Iraqi immigrants that the State Department plans to bring to the U.S. after years of civil war in the Mideast.
State Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, said accepting the refugees would make the country less safe. “I think we all would agree that public safety is the primary role of what our government should be doing. And the fact that we would risk public safety is insanity,” Bright said on the Senate floor last week.
“We need to help them over there,” Bright said.
South Carolina has two nonprofits that help resettle refugees in South Carolina at the U.S. State Department’s request. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services is the only one so far to move Syrian families. One family has relocated to the Midlands, but LIRS has said a second family is on the way. More than 400 refugees from various countries have been resettled in South Carolina since 2012.
The bill would also hold nonprofits that bring refugees into South Carolina liable for damages if any refugees are later charged with terrorism. It would also bar state agencies from offering any assistance to the State Department or resettlement agencies.
Opponents say the proposal is almost certainly unconstitutional and designed more to play on voters’ fears than act as a practical law.
A spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations told the Associated Press a challenge would be likely because the law singles people out by county of origin and seems bent toward discriminating against Muslims.