HARRISBURG, Pa. -- While governors in some states say they will reject refugees from Syria in light of the terrorist attacks in Paris, Governor Tom Wolf says Pennsylvania will not. A statement this morning by Wolf's Press Secretary Jeff Sheridan says, “While details are still emerging regarding the individuals responsible for the heinous attacks in Paris, all of those responsible committed atrocious acts and must be brought to justice. We must not lose sight of the fact that families leaving Syria are trying to escape the same violence and unimaginable terror that took place in Paris and Beirut.
“To assist the settlement of families fleeing the humanitarian crisis in Syria, the Federal Government coordinates with local charitable organizations in Pennsylvania and other states. Pennsylvania will continue working with the Federal Government to ensure that all individuals have gone through the proper screening process. Governor Wolf wants Pennsylvania to continue to build on its rich history of accepting immigrants and refugees from around the world but he is also committed to protecting Pennsylvanians and will work with the Federal Government to ensure it is taking every precaution necessary in screening those families coming into the country.”
Governor Wolf ordered all flags to be flown at half-staff to honor the victims of the Paris terror attacks. Wolf ordered all American and Pennsylvania flags to be flown at half-staff until sunset on Nov. 19.
However, Gov Wolf's policy towards Syrian refugees is not being welcomed by everyone in Harrisburg. Wolf opponents in Pennsylvania's General Assembly, like State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, feel the governor is making a "dangerous mistake" in keeping the state's borders open to Syrians.
"Our state should not accept any Syrian refugees," Metcalfe told FOX43. "This radical Islam that's being brought to our shores.... They come from an unstable country. It's falling apart. And with the lack of databases and lack of information on these foreign nationals, there’s no way anyone can properly vet their background."
Metcalfe is referencing a statement made by FBI Director James Comey to the House Homeland Security Committee in October in which he said the United States would be unable to thoroughly vet every one of the approximated 10,000 Syrian refugees expected to enter the country.
"If someone has never made a ripple in the pond in Syria in a way that would get their identity or their interest reflected in our database, ...there will be nothing show up because we have no record of them," Comey said
That uncertainty, combined with the attacks in Paris, in which one of the ISIS terrorists snuck into France disguised as a refugee, has led to governors from multiple states to declare they will block Syrians from entering. Governors in Alabama, Michigan, Louisiana, and Texas all stated Syrian refugees will be sent elsewhere if they try to enter their states.
Governor Wolf's decision to welcome refugees with open arms has Metcalfe asking him to reconsider. He says he plans on writing the governor a letter, co-signed by a handful of colleagues, in the coming days.
"The governor needs to protect foremost the lives of the citizens in Pennsylvania," Metcalfe said. "And he cannot do that by working with the Obama administration to take Syrian refugees that the FBI has admitted they can't properly vet backgrounds of."
In the past year, of the 266 refugees who have migrated to the Harrisburg-area, six came from Syria, according to Pete Biasucci of Catholic Charities.
The organization, which belongs to the Harrisburg Catholic Diocese, is one of many private volunteer groups which helps refugees assimilate into American society.
"We accept them as they come through our government," Biasucci said, adding Catholic Charities is in touch with Migration and Refugees Services which helps vet refugees through the State Department. However, questions remain on the specificity of who arrives in each area, once they are vetted by the Federal Government.
"We don’t know who's coming. We barely know when they’re coming," Biasucci said. "Our job is to take care of them when they get here, with the assurance they’ve been properly screened and vetted, in a process which sometimes takes decades."
The state capitol is also lit up in blue, white, and red to honor the victims of the attacks.