MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — An online petition seeking to bar Syrian refugees from West Virgnia is gaining a lot of support throughout the state.
According to the Governor’s Office, it also is full of mistruths.
The Change.org petition, spearheaded by Delegate Joshua Nelson, R-Boone, asks West Virginia residents to “show (their) support and demand that un-vetted refugees not be brought into West Virginia.” The petition, which has received nearly 15,000 signatures as of Thursday, includes a letter addressed to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and President Barack Obama. In part, the letter reads that Syrian refugees “who are peaceful and want a chance at peace have (Nelson’s) deepest sympathies,” but that “among these refugees will also be those who are hell bent on carrying out jihad in the United States and West Virginia mixed among them as a Trojan horse.”
The petition, titled “Support Delegate Nelson’s Proposal Urging Gov. Tomblin to Refuse Un-vetted Refugees,” can be accessed by visiting http://chn.ge/1l7K7Gt.
Regarding the online signature movement, Tomblin’s office says Nelson “is unfortunately using his petition to spread information that is not true or accurate.”
“Governor Tomblin is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of all West Virginians, and he continues to work with federal, state and local partners to monitor the situation and determine potential next steps,” a statement emailed to The Journal on Thursday reads. The statement also reiterates that Tomblin’s office “has not been contacted by the federal Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement regarding the placement of Syrian refugees, and we do not anticipate a federal request for placement in West Virginia.”
Among the thousands of people who have signed the online petition are numerous residents of the Eastern Panhandle. Some of them include:
“There’s no way to differentiate between jihadist Muslims and the rest,” wrote Charles Jacobs, of Martinsburg. “The only means we have to protect ourselves is to turn them all away.”
“We are in poverty here now,” wrote Sammi Johnson, of Berkeley Springs. “We don’t need to house more illegal immigrants for free.”
“We need to take care of our own before helping others that want to come in and take over our country,” wrote Lori King, of Harpers Ferry.
“It would be totally idiotic to have refugees that close to our nation’s capital,” wrote Kristie Mills, speaking specifically of her hometown of Ranson. “It would be basically setting them up to attack.”
“No WV citizens (sic) life is worth losing to be politically correct,” wrote Curtis Schloten, of Martinsburg.
“I’m signing this because I think of my family and their safety first,” wrote Farrah Spain, of Shenandoah Junction. “I understand there are innocent refugees but there are also terrorist(s) just waiting to attack America.”
“They kill with ease and know how to kill us,” wrote Travis Wilson, of Bunker Hill.
GOVERNOR’S OFFICE RESPONDS
The Governor’s Office has received “a number of calls” from concerned West Virginians on both sides of the refugee debate, according to the email to The Journal.
Tomblin’s office says it is in close contact with federal partners – including the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI – regarding the federal security procedures and protocols in place for refugees entering the United States.
In the statement, Tomblin’s office says Catholic Charities West Virginia is the only recognized and authorized refugee resettlement organization in the state, and the office has been assured state officials will be notified “immediately” if CCWV receives a formal request by the federal government for placement of refugees.
Editor Dave Emke can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 139, or www.twitter.com/demkeJN.