Due to an incorrect paraphrase of my stance in recent article about the refugee settlement, I want to be sure you hear directly from me about this issue.
Since the Herald-Journal first reported on this in March, I have spoken with many of my constituents and other concerned citizens in the community, as well as pastors involved in this ministry and our community.
I have had an opportunity to speak with the pastors involved and share their desire to care for those in need. As a teenager, I began going on mission trips to minister to those in need, including in other countries. One of the first issues that I addressed when I was sworn into county council was supporting efforts to protect victims of human trafficking and stop this horrible crime from plaguing our community. My reason for doing this is that my faith drives me to give a voice to those that that do not have the ability to speak out. I understand the heart of the local ministers involved in this project and trust the judgment of many of them that I know personally. I am not in any way attacking their desire to minister to these individuals physically and spiritually and hope that they are successful in sharing the gospel with anyone who needs to the hear the good news.
Since the refugee settlement efforts in Spartanburg were first reported in March, I began asking questions about the program. I also reached out directly to the organization World Relief, who informed me that I was the first elected official to do so. Because there was very little information, I wanted to make sure that I understood the implications of this for our community. After looking at the legal requirements, I realized that Spartanburg County’s role in this process was limited, since this is an issue of federal and state law and benefits. I determined that I would continue to seek additional information for my constituents and to answer my questions and concerns about the program so that we could evaluate this proposal as a community.
My concerns are primarily in 2 areas:
1. Like many of you, I am concerned about the our current immigration system and the recent issues of terrorism posed by groups like ISIS who are taking terrible actions against Christians overseas and have targeted our homeland. Has homeland security and the state taken appropriate steps to review individuals that are coming into our community? Have they consulted with local law enforcement to provide this information to them?
2. In addition to the security concerns, I also have issues with our immigration system generally that too often results in downward assimilation of individuals who immigrate into our country into a cycle of government dependence over upward mobility and opportunity. I am also concerned about whether these individuals, if they are using government services, will be a burden on our local governments and agencies who are already trying to manage limited resources for our residents.
When Congressman Gowdy sent a letter earlier this month to Secretary of State John Kerry to ask for additional information about the program and seek detailed answers, I wrote to Congressman Gowdy to ask that he share any information that he obtains on the federal level with our county council and our community. I also joined Congressman Gowdy in requesting that the proposal be placed on hold while we have a chance to receive more information. I also reached out to my local state representative to ask for sharing of any information they obtain from the Governor’s office. To date, I have not received any new information from the state or federal government. Pastor Jason Lee with World Relief has graciously spoken with me on a couple of occasions to answer my questions directly and provided the information that he can share, but he also pointed out the the nature of the work they are doing through DSS prevents the non-profit organization itself from sharing some of the information specific to these individuals.
Because the Governor’s office and DSS, as well as federal authorities, have been involved in this process for many months, I wish they had consulted with local officials and the community about this process from the beginning so we could have an open and honest discussion about the concerns and the plan that can only be addressed by the state and federal government.
I will continue to seek more information about the refugee resettlement plans for Spartanburg and share with you as I receive it. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have additional questions.
Justin T. Bradley
District 2, Spartanburg County Council