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Binghamton City Council Vote Spurs Refugee Debate

By Jason Weinstein.
In a 4-3 vote Tuesday night Binghamton City Council struck down a resolution welcoming foreign refugees. The resolution was only symbolic but with great meaning to those on both sides of the debate.

Those who voted no cited cited security concerns. The American Civic Association helped draft the resolution. Officials there say refugees are subject to the highest level of security checks of any traveler to America.

The resolution before City Council last night didn't specify welcoming Syrian refugees but did recognize the Syrian issue as the world's largest refugee crisis in almost a quarter of a century.

"Our basic job is to protect the people here within the city. Right now that vetting process is not a guarantee that these immigrants coming in will not be infiltrated by the people we don't want here," said Binghamton City Council President Bill Berg (D).

"There have been so many incidents with US citizens and refugees have really never been at fault for these kinds of atrocities. The fact of the matter is with people who have this kind of horrific agenda that they want to fulfill they're going to find a way to do it whether they infiltrate with refugees or some other way," said Samantha Behlog of the American Civic Association.

The American Civic Association says it hasn't handled any Syrian refugees. However, 45-60 refugees have resettled in Binghamton each year from a number of countries such as Iraq, Bosnia, and Vietnam.

According to the resolution, 9.4 percent of Binghamton residents were born outside the United States.