Pontiac at Center of Oakland County Internal Controversy Over Refugees

A Syrian community center is at the center of a controversy in Pontiac.

Matthew Trevethan

There’s a national debate brewing over Syrian refugees. Governors from many states – including Michigan – say they’re concerned about the security of the screening process for refugees. Governor Rick Snyder has been the focus of national attention for his quick reaction calling for a halt or “pause” to admitting refugees in Michigan. Now Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson wants the city of Pontiac to stop the development of a Syrian refugee community center, calling it a “village of Syrian refugees.”

Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner disagrees with Patterson. He joins WDET’s Travis Wright to discuss the issues. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Vetting: Meisner says there should be no concern that all refugees are not thoroughly vetted. “We have a thorough vetting process for all refugees,” he says. But he also says “this is still America” and refugees of war-torn regions should be welcomed with open arms and treated humanely as well. He says a lot of reaction to refugees is “more based on fear and less on core values.”
  • Nation of refugees: Meisner points out that America was largely founded and populated over generations by refugees from other countries. “My family itself has its own refugee story,” he says.
  • L. Brooks Patterson: Meisner says, “I like [Patterson] and respect him but I think he’s basically playing the same fear card Governor Snyder played.”