TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - The U.S. has resettled around 2,000 Syrian refugees since the conflict began in Syria in early 2011. The majority of those refugees have arrived in the past year, and Toledo has also been seeing an influx of refugees seeking asylum.
This year, Toledo has resettled 47 total refugees through the agency US Together; that number will climb to 54 after a new family arrives over the weekend.
After the recent attacks in Paris, governors in 30 states have asked for the resettlement to stop until security concerns can be addressed, including Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.
Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson says she has always been an advocate for diversity and inclusion, and that while security is a top priority, the Syrian refugees are fully screened before they're allowed entrance into the U.S. and ultimately Toledo.
"While we know that there are incidents and we have to be safe, everything is really being done to ensure that if someone comes from Syria as a refugee, that they've been vetted and gone through a rigorous review by the Department of Homeland Security to make sure that these are people that are truly looking for asylum," she said. "While I understand folks are wanting to be safe, and I agree with that, we have to do everything we can, and we are. That's the other part that we don't talk about is that we are doing just that: making sure that our police chief is talking with his counterparts to make sure that there's nothing going on that could be adverse to us here in our area. We just have to be that compassionate city that we are."
Mayor Hicks-Hudson also noted that the rate of accepting refugees could possibly slow down in the near future.
"I think that probably because of what's happened, it might slow down because of the concerns that are being raised. But I don't want us ever to forget that this is what we are as a community: what makes Toledo so unique is that diversity. And that diversity is because people came to this country and settled in Toledo because of their needing to leave wherever they were," she said.
As far as the possibility of some cities, like Toledo, utilizing "home-rule authority" in allowing Syrian refugees to resettle, Mayor Hicks-Hudson says currently, that's solely a federal and state issue.
"We look at home rule as the ability for us to regulate and to run our government and to make decisions for the voters here," she said. "For example, the marijuana issue, where we changed our municipal code, there's possible conflict between us and the state on that. That's the relationship between the state and local government. Whatever would happen between the state and the federal government (with regards to refugees), that's the first hurdle that has to be overcome. I'm not seeing where you're dealing with international issues that would impede the federal government, impeding the state in areas of government that they can govern."
The mayor released the following official statement:
"As a compassionate city, we grieve for the people all over the world suffering loss for the acts of terrorism. We stand with those affected and offer our deepest sympathy.
As our city has done so in the past, we will remain a place of refuge. Our stance is part of our overall makeup as a compassionate city and based on a philosophy of basic human rights. We do not support terrorists or terrorism. Many of these refugees are families who are, in fact, fleeing terrorism in their homeland. Just as Toledo was a haven for Hungarian refugees in 1950s, we must continue to be one for people seeking safe havens.
Toledo joins with the Welcome Toledo-Lucas County Initiative in providing opportunities for people to find a place of refuge. As part of the initiative, Homeland Security provides rigorous background checks that can take up to two years on émigrés to the United States that are seeking permanent residence here, such as the Syrian refugees. We will continue to work to be a welcoming and inclusive community."
Mayor Hicks-Hudson also noted that historically, Toledo has been a refuge for other immigrant groups, referencing Irish, Hungarian and 'Little Syria' neighborhoods in the city.
For more information on Toledo's refugee resettlement agency, US Together, click here.