Divisions in Oakland County Over Syrian Refugee Center in Pontiac

A community center in Pontiac for Syrian refugees may not happen after the terrorist attacks in Paris.

A handful of Syrian-Americans living and working in Pontiac began an investment group to buy property and create havens for Syrian war refugees. The group – called Live In Pontiac LLC and Pontiac Community Investment – began by purchasing an vacant and boarded up elementary school in the city to create a community center.

Pontiac suffers from some of the same issues with blight and vacancy that Detroit is all-too-familiar with, and has also heard some of the same calls for refugees to be placed in a city with ample space and opportunity. But one vocal opponent of attracting Syrians to Pontiac is Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. Patterson said, “Any program such as the acceptance of refugees from Syria under current conditions constitutes an immediate threat of imminent danger.”

One of the investors in the community center is Dr. Malaz Alatassi. Dr. Alatassi joins Detroit Today with host Stephen Henderson. Here are a few highlights from their conversation:

  • Politics: “He’s trying to rake up political points,” Dr. Alatassi says, referring to Patterson’s statement. The attacks in Paris were terrible, says Alatassi, but “ISIS is not Syria.”
  • The Community Center: The plans to build the community center started two years ago after the war in Syria began. “The war was going to go on for a long time,” Alatassi says. In June of 2013, the Live in Pontiac LLC and Pontiac Community Investment brought the plan forward to city officials.
  • Terrorism at home: “We understand the fear,” Alatassi says. Alatassi he doesn’t think terrorists would want to wait through the extensive and long screening process for refugees into the United States, and terrorists are likely to take more direct routes to get into the U.S.

To hear more, click the link above.