The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors this week voted 3-1 to welcome Syrian and other refugees fleeing war and persecution to a “new peaceful and productive life” in the county. Supervisor Mike Antonovich dissented and Supervisor Don Knabe abstained.
Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Shiela Kuehl recommended drafting a letter to President Barack Obama and California’s congressional contingent expressing support of federal efforts to help bring Syrians fleeing violence in their homeland and to increase the number of refugees expected to be settled locally over the next two years. Both said the declaration was a matter of continuing a long-standing county tradition of not tolerating hate crimes and bigotry. Earlier this year, the board commemorated the Armenian genocide and its 2012 revocation of a 1942 resolution that supported the internment of Japanese Americans, some of which were sent to Santa Anita Park which was temporarily transformed into an internment camp.
“We simply chose to push back on every vestige of bigotry that threatens the best of what it means to celebrate democracy,” Ridley-Thomas said.
During the proposed vote, Antonovich said that he was sympathetic to the plight of the refugees, noting that his “heart and soul goes out the people who have been displaced by the Syrian conflict.” He added, however, that the screening process currently in place for the refugees does not protect the public.
“We don’t have the vetting process in place … the consequences are too great,” Antonovich said.
Ridley-Thomas and Kuehl pointed to the motion language as justification of their vote:
“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.”