LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) —The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to welcome Syrian and other refugees fleeing persecution to a “new, peaceful and productive life in Los Angeles County.”
In a 3-1 vote, Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl recommended sending a letter to President Barack Obama and congressional representatives expressing support of federal efforts to help Syrians fleeing violence and increase the number of refugees to be resettled over the next two years.
Both said the declaration was simply a matter of continuing a longstanding county tradition of not tolerating hate crimes and bigotry that they say hearkens back to a commemoration earlier this year of the Armenian genocide.
The motion (PDF) noted 12 million people – almost half of Syria’s population – have been displaced by terrorism, religious persecution, war and conflict.
The Board in 2012 also issued a revocation of a 1942 resolution that supported the internment of Japanese-Americans.
Supervisor Michael Antonovich cast the sole dissenting vote, with Supervisor Don Knabe abstaining.
Saying the screening process currently in place for refugees doesn’t protect the public, Antonovich reiterated his sympathy for the plight of Syrian refugees.
“We don’t have the vetting process in place … the consequences are too great,” Antonovich stressed, quoting concerns raised by some military and federal intelligence officials.
Ridley-Thomas and Kuehl disagreed.
“Refugees are subject to the strictest form of security screening of any class of traveler to the U.S. before they are allowed to enter, and are subject to extensive background, security and health checks,” according to the motion.
Supporters of the motion were on hand for the vote, including Robin Toma, executive director of the county’s Human Relations Commission, whose mother was forced to relocate to an internment camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II.
“The tragedy in San Bernardino has struck all of us in a very hard way. It raises the level of fear, anger, emotions,” Toma said. “The idea of making policy to discriminate against a group because of the nation they came from, because of their ethnicity, because of their religion, is anathema to our Constitution and to the values of this county.”
Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill cosponsored by an Corona lawmaker to suspend the Obama administration’s Middle Eastern refugee resettlement program until safeguards can be put into place.
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