Georgia's refugee haven debates Syrian influx

In Georgia, even refugees are disagreeing about whether the state should allow more Syrians into the country.

CLARKSTON, GA (WXIA) -- In Georgia, even refugees are disagreeing about whether the state should allow more Syrians into the country. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is among those who don't want more Syrian refugees relocating here without tougher background checks.

Deal has the support of a Clarkston man who came to the US as a refugee 15 years ago.

"Right now I don't think we should even accept any" refugees from Syria, said Mohamed Ameen. He started living in Clarkston after his family fled a civil war in Sri Lanka.

Clarkston is a town that openly embraces the non-western cultures of many of its residents. Yet Ameen, a Muslim who is now a US citizen serving in the Army Reserve, is wary of Syrian refugees.

"We are talking about doing this (screening) process in a matter of months," Ameen said. "And I don't think its possible to screen every single person that is migrating from Syria to the United States" in that length of time, he said.

Ameen's view may have broad support among conservatives in Georgia, including Gov. Deal. But Clarkston's politics don't necessarily reflect those of the state as a whole. Clarkston city councilman-elect Howard Eyasu hails from war-torn Eritrea – and sees a broader threat in his adopted country.

"We have extremists from all walks of life," said Eyasu, who is also a US citizen. "We have extremists I'm sure from Christians. We have experienced this in our country. And l don't think it's fair just to point toward Muslims as a prime source of terrorism. Which is not the fact."

Eyasu says Clarkston's population of refugees is one of its strengths. So does Jess Darnell, who runs a nonprofit in Clarkston that employs refugees in her coffee truck.

"There's a negative stigma that's really not true about people, about refugees Darnell said. "They're smart and they're safe and they desire safety too. They have families they have communities and they desire safety just as we do."

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