Debate over welcoming Syrian refugees heats up locally - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Debate over welcoming Syrian refugees heats up locally


Eau Claire (WQOW) – The United States committed to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees next year, but once it was revealed that at least one suspect in the Paris attacks slipped into Europe posing as a Syrian refugee, opposition exploded.

Close to 30 governors oppose the idea, including Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who released a statement Monday, saying that "the influx of Syrian refugees poses a threat. The state of Wisconsin will not accept new Syrian refugees."

Andrew Werthmann, a member of the Eau Claire City Council, voiced his disagreement toward the governors statements and has already started looking for ways to help bring Syrian refugees to Eau Claire.

“I think we have bigger issues here at home,” Werthmann said. “That if they're going to turn to terrorism, there's a likelihood that there's people here that are interested in doing that. But that's not really the issue here, the issue is orphans. It's women. It's children. It's families that need a place to be because they're running from terrorism.”

Mike Conlin, the chairman of the Republican Party of Eau Claire County, errs on the side of caution and wants to keep them out.

“This is a country that's been in civil war for five years,” Conlin said. “You can't finger print these people you don't know if they are who they truly say they are. The opportunity for ISIS to insert it's agents is quite real.”

Immigration experts say under the Refugee Act of 1980, governors cannot legally block refugees from settling in their communities, but state agencies have authority to make the process of accepting refugees much more difficult. Despite Friday's deadly attacks, the president of France affirms the country's commitment to welcome 30,000 refugees over the next two years.

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