Following the terror attacks in Paris, there has been a backlash against plans to bring refugees from Syria’s bloody civil war to the U.S. More than half of the nation’s governors — mostly Republicans — have expressed opposition to hosting Syrian refugees in their states.
In Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) says he will not ban refugees from the Commonwealth. Arlington, meanwhile, says it’s ready to help refugees who are sent to the county.
“While there is no official role for the Arlington County government in resettlement decisions or in receiving refugees, we have expressed our interest in serving as a receiving community for refugees,” said Brian Stout, Arlington County’s federal liaison.
Once in Arlington, the county’s Dept. of Human Service would offer a number of free services to refugees through its Community Outreach Program, including:
- Citizenship classes and workshops
- English language classes
- Computer classes
- Job readiness training
- Food and nutrition classes
- Health screenings and presentations
Those services are available in Arabic and other languages, according to information on refugee resettlement in Arlington provided to ARLnow.com. The document also states that county staff is able to “signal our interest in assisting” with refugee resettlement by communicating “the benefits of Arlington as a placement site to the State Department and the placement agencies.”
In order to come to Arlington, a refugee would either need to have family in the area, or it would need to be determined by federal authorities that Arlington was best suited to the refugee’s needs. The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement would refer the refugee to the Virginia Dept. of Social Services, which would in turn refer him or her to the local, contracted refugee service provider — which for Arlington is Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington.
So far, the county is unaware of any Syrian refugees that have been resettled in Arlington, Stout said. ARLnow.com was unable to reach Catholic Charities for comment.
Per security concerns about ISIS-affiliated terrorists posing as refugees, Gov. McAuliffe’s office said in a statement that each refugee “undergoes intensive security screening” from federal authorities. Even so, McAuliffe has also specifically asked his homeland security secretary to “ensure that every proper precaution is taken to keep Virginians safe.”
Republicans in the House of Delegates say they will introduce legislation early next year to ban Syrian refugees from Virginia.
Arlington County, along with other Northern Virginia jurisdictions, is currently conducting a blanket and coat drive for Syrian refugees.