A subcommittee in South Carolina’s state Senate passed a bill Wednesday that requires Syrian refugees to register with the state. The measures would allow state law enforcement to track refugees, prevent spending state and local money from benefiting refugees without approval from state lawmakers, and hold any groups that sponsor refugees culpable should that refugee later commit a crime.
“If you let in the wrong Irishman–I’m fourth generation– if you let in the wrong Irishman the downside is really not that serious, okay,” Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), representative of the state’s fifth district, said. “You let in the wrong Syrian refugee, one, then people can die as a result.”
The bill states that refugees’ information — including the refugee’s name, address, telephone number, job status, name and contact information of the refugee’s employer, if any, all state, local, or federal assistance provided to the refugee, criminal record, and any other information that the department determines to be relevant — would be placed on the internet for the public to see. The stipulation is not limited to Syrians either but anyone “from a country recognized by the federal government as a state sponsor of terrorism.”
Providing any sort of sponsorship or resettlement services to refugees would also be held liable for any crime or violence committed by said refugee, according to Bill 997. Directors of organizations that help refugees could also be held directly responsible on a personal level for crimes committed by a refugee.
“I think it’s just another example of the demonization of refugees in general and Muslim refugees in particular and the overall rise of anti-Muslim sentiment and Islamophobia in our society,” Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations told ThinkProgress. “You can target people of a particular faith or national origin and it seems to be acceptable unfortunately.”
The attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California last year, led American politicians to take a pernicious attitude toward Syrian refugees. Governors from across the political divide called for a halt to Syrian refugee resettlement last November, while a couple days later the House of Representatives voted to ban their entry.
South Carolina’s focus on potential ISIS infiltrators contradicts standing knowledge about refugees’ penchant for planning or committing acts of terror. The United States accepted 784,000 refugees in since Sept. 11, 2001 and only three of those were accused of planning acts of terrorism. “[I]t is worth noting two were not planning an attack in the United States and the plans of the third were barely credible,” the Migration Policy Institute’s Kathleen Newland wrote in an op-ed in October of last year.
The focus on radical Islamist movements, however, overshadows other concerns relating to violence in the state. Charleston, South Carolina caught national headlines in June last year when a 21-year-old white supremacist entered the Emanuel A.M.E Church and killed nine people. For the past 18 years, South Carolina also ranked in the top 10 for deadly violence against women and in 2015 the state ranked first, according to a report by the Violence Policy Center.
“Ranking first among states for women murdered by men, South Carolina had a rate of 2.32 women killed per 100,000 people in 2013, the latest year for which statistics are available,” AP reported in September. “That’s more than twice the national average and represents 57 known deaths, compared with 50 a year earlier, according to the study.”