Local reaction mixed over Syrian refugees

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Gov. Tom Wolf is one of only a handful of governors expressing support for the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States. However, many other elected officials have voiced security concerns over the federal refugee program, which could result in 10,000 refugees entering the U.S.

“I understand the fears of many in the wake of the attacks in Paris and Beirut,” Wolf wrote in a letter to Pennsylvania lawmakers on Tuesday. “As governor of Pennsylvania, my first priority is protecting the commonwealth.” Later in the letter, Wolf reinforces his confidence in the federal government’s vetting requirements for refugees, to ensure those entering the country are not a danger to Americans.

Just a block away from the Capitol in Harrisburg, customers grabbing an evening coffee at the Market on Market shared opinions about the refugee crisis they’re reading about on the cover of both national and local newspapers.

“We all came here to fulfill our dreams and live a prosperous life,” James Brenner of Harrisburg said, “but I think that a lot of people’s opinion is we need to look out for our own country.”

Another customer, Harrisburg University Professor Dr. Stanley Nwoji, sees the refugee situation differently.

“I think the refugees are humans, and if we put ourselves in their position we should be needing help,” he said. “I think we should do everything to help them.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) offered a statement that mirrored Wolf’s, citing the strong security screening process that refugees endure before entering the country. With nearly 30 governors expressing concerns over the refugees and many calling for the suspension of the refugee resettlement program, the White House hosted a conference call Tuesday to address the issue. Thirty-four governors took part, including Wolf.

At the market, the discussion continued with a mix of compassion and frustration.

“It’s a godly thing to do,” Nwoji added. “If you see aliens, and if people are strangers, the scripture says you should take them in, so we should do that.”

“They don’t feel safe,” said Brenner, who works at Strawberry Square.

He said many of the people he encountered on Tuesday shared a skeptical view of the Syrian refugees entering the U.S. just days after the Paris attacks:

“We have homeless people on the streets of downtown Harrisburg and we’re not helping our own people, but we’re gonna help people from a different country?”

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