“While they were not refugees in the way that we are seeing Syrians flee their country now, they contributed immensely to the fabric of the nation,” Chaney said. “To be quite honest, I find that the narrow thinking out there about both Arabs and Islam to be shocking.”
The Board of Alderman passed a resolution declaring Carrboro a safe haven for Syrian refugees on Nov. 24.
The resolution is intended to welcome the Syrian people, who are fleeing violence and terror, to Carrboro, Board of Alderman member Sammy Slade said.
The resolution comes after 30 United States governors, including North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, opposed letting Syrian refugees into their states due to fears of terrorism.
“Carrboro has always considered itself a safe haven for immigrants, and we felt that it was inappropriate and really beyond his authority for the governor to press the pause button on immigration in the state,” Chaney said.
The admittance and placement of refugees is not determined at the state level but rather at the federal level.
“I think many of (the governors) misunderstand federal immigration law, and I think they’re using this issue as a wedge for political purposes,” Board of Alderman member Damon Seils said. “They’re putting a vulnerable population of people into the mix for what I think are cynical purposes.”
In September, Kleinschmidt joined 17 other mayors around the country and signed a letter to President Barack Obama to encourage immigration reform. Neither Chapel Hill nor Carrboro has received any Syrian immigrants, though Syrian refugees have immigrated to other parts of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said.
The state government helps refugees by acting as the entity that passes funds from the federal government to nonprofits that care for refugees.
If the state seeks to restrict its participation in the passing of federal funds, the town of Carrboro would try to partner other towns in North Carolina to ensure that funds continue to go to nonprofits, Slade said.
Seils said the Board of Aldermen is looking for opportunities to facilitate the use of federal dollars that go through the community for nonprofit resettlement agencies.
“These are victims of violence and terror fleeing war zones — they are seeking a place where it is safe for them to be,” Slade said. “Carrboro is such a place.”