Clarkston is one of the nation's "top terrorist sanctuary cities," Conservative America says, citing in part a 2010 crime in "neighboring LaGrange," after which "no one in the Clarkston community spoke out."
Actually LaGrange is nearly 80 miles away:
Amid a recent backlash regarding settling Syrian refugees in America, Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry said his city is willing to welcome more refugees fleeing from the Middle East and Africa.
“Clarkston is ready to step up and do our part to welcome more Syrians, more Iraqis, more Afghanis to our city,” said Terry. “Our Christian and Muslim brothers and sisters from the Levant need our help. And I respectfully call on our state and federal leaders to answer the call.”
A Syrian refugee named Jamil recently spoke to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through an Arabic interpreter at the Atlanta office of the International Rescue Committee, which is helping him resettle in Decatur. He asked that his full name not be published to protect relatives in Syria.
“Freedom,” he said in describing the U.S. “Anything that you dream about, you can do it.”
Holly Frew emergency communications officer at CARE, recently returned from Jordan, her second trip to the region this year.
"They fled unimaginable violence. They didn’t want to leave Syria," she said. "They were forced out because of violence that’s been going on for nearly five years now."
The Atlanta-based global humanitarian organization has been working in the region for years and has posted letters from Syrians on its web site to give an idea of what refugees have gone through.
"I’m 26 and I am from a city called Shahba in Syria," one letter from a woman named Hint reads. "I grew up there but went to Halap to continue my university studies. There I met young people from all over Syria, and made some very good friends. I returned home after my studies, and found work as a public servant. Then the fighting started. My family had an internet café. It got broken into. It was tense, hostile. We left Syria. All I want is peace and hope for Syria and all countries suffering like mine. I want to go back and achieve what I planned to do."
Frew said most of the Syrians she's met want nothing more than a return to their everyday lives.
"Most of the people I met were middle class, educated. I met teachers, I met engineers," she said. "I met a woman who had been an English teacher in Azraq and she’s doing English tutoring in a refugee camp."
She's been moved by many of the stories she's heard.
"One woman called it 'the journey of death.' She and her family had to overcome dangerous situations multiple times to get out of the country," she said. "I would ask them, 'what is it that you need?' They need employment opportunities and education. In Turkey and Jordan, for them to legally work they need a work permit and it’s very expensive. A lot of people exhausted their finances fleeing the country. A lot of them are really struggling to survive. That’s why we’ve seen these floods of immigrants through Europe."
Debate over migration through Europe has percolated for months, fueled by Internet videos showing unrest among migrants surging into areas of Europe. It's only intensified in the days since the Islamic State terrorist attacks.
Frew said the tension has been brewing unseen by much of the globe until now.
"The conflict has been going on. Most of the world is just now taking notice," she said. "The global community has failed to meet the threshold of need that has been escalating. People just want to give their children a future. With a conflict that’s been going on for five years with no end in sight, people are reaching a level of desperation. Children know the names of weapons before they even know the alphabet."
Frew spoke to the AJC just as the US House passed a bill to stop Syrian refugees from being accepted into the United States without a more stringent vetting process.
"Refugees are the most vetted group that enters the US. It can take over two years," Frew said. We cannot let fear overtake our compassion and our moral obligation to help refugees. The American people are the most generous in the world. We were founded on the generosity of American people sending care packages to European refugees. We’re writing history right now in our response to refugees."