A state Senate committee passed a bill Wednesday that would require Syrian refugees who come to South Carolina to register with the state, allowing the State Law Enforcement Division to track them. It would also prevent spending any state or local money to benefit refugees without that spending being approved by state lawmakers. And any group that sponsors a refugee could be held legally responsible if the refugee later commits an act of terrorism.
“We’ve got a crisis on our hands and we are making history today,” Sen. Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson, said.
Congressmen Jeff Duncan, who represents the state’s 3rd District in the U.S. House, and Mick Mulvaney, who represents the state’s 5th District, went to the Statehouse from Washington to talk to their former colleagues about the bill.
Rep. Duncan told state senators, “Radical Islamic terrorists have said they will try to exploit both the migrant crisis into Europe and the refugee situation to enter into this country.”
Rep. Mulvaney said, “If you let in the wrong Irishman–I’m fourth generation– if you let in the wrong Irishman the downside is really not that serious, okay. You let in the wrong Syrian refugee, one, then people can die as a result.”
He says the FBI director has said that the FBI can’t do proper screenings on refugees from Syria because the agency can’t get the information it gets from other countries.
Gov. Nikki Haley says, “They do have to go into the DSS system. So we are able to identify them as soon as they get here, identify where they live and just have our bearings on where they live. That’s important for us to give to SLED and law enforcement so they know exactly who is there, because the feds are not giving us that information.”
President Obama says states don’t have the legal authority to refuse refugees or benefits for them, and says the refugees will be screened thoroughly in a process that takes two years.
The bill passed the Senate committee with only two votes against it, from Democrats Kevin Johnson of Manning and Marlon Kimpson of Charleston. Sen. Johnson told his colleagues there’s no need to fear Syrian refugees. “They’re trying to escape terror, not come over here and cause terror,” he said.
He put a minority report on the bill, which blocks it from coming up on the full Senate floor.