The Greater Tulsa Area Hispanic Affairs Commission issued a statement reminding Mayor Dewey Bartlett and other elected officials that Tulsa is a “compassionate city” following remarks they made about Syrian refugees.
The statement, which the Hispanic Affairs Commission voted to approve Wednesday night, calls statements by unnamed local officials about the Syrian refugee issue “uninformed.”
“The process currently in place is rigorous and lengthy,” the statement says.
“It includes thorough background and security checks. Protecting people from terrorism, persecution and violence is a human rights issue that aligns with our most fundamental values. We remind you that our city leadership just last June declared Tulsa a ‘Compassionate City.’ ”
Bartlett posted a Facebook message Monday announcing his intention to send a letter to the President urging him not to accept any more refugees, adding that they should have never been allowed in the first place.
“We must protect our borders during this critical time for the safety of our citizens,” Bartlett wrote.
The Hispanic Affairs Commission statement points out that the United States has a strict and thorough process for evaluating individuals seeking refugee status that typically takes 18 to 24 months.
“Refugee status is a status of last resort, meant to protect that absolute most vulnerable,” the statement reads.
In addition to being screened by several government agencies, individuals seeking refugee status “are subject to additional screening that looks at where they came from and what caused them to leave their home, stories that are checked out” before a refugee enters the U.S., according to the statement.
Juan Miret, chairman of the Hispanic Affairs Commission, said commission members are very concerned that some local leaders are uninformed.
“It makes no sense,” he said. “When you are an elected official you are supposed to get all the facts before you make a statement.
“Our goal at the end of the day is that the community is informed and and that our elected officials know they need to be informed,” Miret said.
Bartlett on Monday joined Gov. Mary Fallin, U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine and other state elected officials in calling for the United States to stop accepting Syrian refugees in the wake last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris. More than two dozens governors across the country have taken similar positions.
Law enforcement officials in France are investigating whether one of the attackers may have entered France by posing as a Syrian refugee. A passport found next to the body of one of the attackers has since been determined to be a fake.
So far, five of the eight attackers have been identified and all are from EU countries, according to the Washington Post.
President Barack Obama has said the United States will accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next fiscal year.
In his letter to the president, issued Tuesday, Bartlett urged Obama to secure the border and to improve the process for assessing individuals seeking refugee status.
“Until these needs are accomplished, I do not support Syrian refugees being given access to to this country beyond our borders,” Bartlett wrote.
The Hispanic Affairs Commission statement notes that city officials recently declared Tulsa a “Compassionate City.”
“Protecting people from terrorism, persecution and violence is a human rights issue that aligns with our most fundamental values,” the statement reads.