Take heart my Hispanic and Latino brothers and sisters. You’re not the only ones whose presence in the U.S. makes Republican’s skin crawl. At least if the parsed bigotry of South Carolina Republican Representative Trey Gowdy and some of his colleagues and constituents is any indication.
You remember Trey Gowdy? He first came to national prominence as the attack dog for Darrell Issa’s Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. This renegade bunch of partisan donkey-haters “investigated” any issue they felt could discredit administration Democrats and embarrass the president.
There were the dead-ends of Fast and Furious, IRS targeting of the Tea Party, EPA, Health Care and repeated attempts to pull then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, into the flames of public censure over Benghazi. Thankfully, Issa was term-limited out of his chairmanship in January.
Politically paranoid, Golden Boy Gowdy, is without his mentor. He currently chairs a separate committee desperately trying to keep Benghazi alive, since Hillary who has left State, has announced for the Democratic Party presidential primary.
But the real story revolves around a new Gowdy objective. Ironically, his sights are now trained on a well-meaning, faith-based effort, basically headed by sure-shot Republican Evangelicals. But, credit where credit is due. In a column that appeared in the April 1 edition of the local paper, Jim Goodroe, the director of missions for the Spartanburg Baptist Church, unleashed a firestorm when he wrote the following: “Our state and the U.S. State Department have approved Spartanburg as a resettlement site for 60 refugees this year through World Relief, a corporation of the National Association of Evangelicals.”
You might as well have told the xenophobic wing of the local Republican Party that the devil and 59 of his closest friends were about to take up residence in this fine Upstate community. No, the newcomers are not coming from hell, though for some, their warring home countries might meet that definition. They’re refugees from Iraq, Bhutan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and possibly Syrians fleeing ISIS. Pastor Goodroe pointed out that they would join residents from more than 70 countries currently living in the county.
The people behind the movement have already jumped through all of the government and legal hoops and have a system of volunteers in place for initially housing the newcomers. Job searches, food and education are also an immediate priority. The first wave is scheduled to arrive this month. Goodroe informed readers that an influx of Ukrainians in the early 2000’s resulted in a majority now owning homes, with some owning businesses as well. A dozen Ukrainian churches have sprung up in the county. It should also be noted that with a county population pushing 300,000, adding 60 new souls would be a tiny fraction of 1 percent.
This is a good will and humane gesture for 60 desperate people. Politics aside, it is a gesture to be applauded, though obviously not everybody agrees.
A citizen contribution to a popular local opinion column pretty much summed up the far right consensus about the newcomers. After opening with, “hold it right there”, the writer predictably asked who was going to pay for their housing, health care and education. He added that there was food and translators to be considered. And pumping up the xenophobic volume full blast, this statement: “Go to any city where this has happened, and they do not belong to American-born citizens anymore.”
This is just the kind of red-meat dislike that Gowdy and friends thrive on. Jumping in with both feet, Gowdy demanded that resettlement plans be delayed. He wrote a letter to Secretary of State, John Kerry, indicating that he was “deeply concerned about the lack of notice, information and consultation afforded to me and my constituents about this issue.”
Of course, in typical Gowdy fashion, the letter was overwrought hyperbole, and, if truth be told, the truth wasn’t told. A World Relief spokesperson refuted Gowdy’s letter. A proposal was submitted to the State Department months earlier as well as the state refugee coordinator and local churches before considering opening an office.
A citizen wrote a Letter to the Editor, indicating that she had attended the first meeting about the World Relief office opening in Spartanburg. “There were pastors and other representatives from dozens of evangelical churches across Spartanburg who came out to listen to the plans and offer their prayers and support. AND, an official Gowdy representative was at the meeting.” The writer, who, according to online records, teaches in an elementary school that is 60 percent Hispanic, would certainly have a vested interest in telling the truth.
By all accounts, Gowdy has been aware of the program since at least August 11. Gowdy sniffs votes. So does his colleague in the other house, Senator Lindsey Graham, who wants to take a closer look at the Reconstruction-era 14th amendment on citizenship. State Senator, Shane Martin, takes his disdain for the program a step further. Calling it “a potential disaster,” Martin hand-delivered a letter to Governor Nikki Haley calling for a halt to the effort.
The local legislative delegation met with the governor’s director of budget and policy to press for answers about the resettlement process. One member, Donna Hicks, said her church was involved in the program, but she failed to attend a meeting on the subject. One delegate was concerned about terrorists since “their native countries are not known.” Go back a few paragraphs, representative. A county councilman groused that he wasn’t consulted about the plan in advance and he has received ‘many’ calls, emails and Facebook comments from constituents, not opposed to the program (wink wink, nudge, nudge). They just want to “better understand” the process. Here goes: Sixty refugees arrive. Churches take care of them. They assimilate into the population with initial help from faith-based volunteers and government agencies and programs. Capiche?
So Gowdy’s in good (?) company. Those far right-wingers and fellow Republican office- holders want to retain the purity of race (and narrow-mindedness). The latest ploy is a list of 17 Gowdy “concerns”, also apparently included in the Kerry letter. He claims there was no follow-up information from last year’s meeting, “nor did we at any point provide approval of the plan.” Gowdy then makes the oddly contradictory point that “the South Carolina Department of Social Services, not a member of Congress, is responsible for approving proposals of this type.”
That statement alone proves that it’s all about votes with the representative. The program is being handled in an intelligent and caring fashion by a number of residents, many of whom may be rethinking their support for someone who clearly doesn’t care that a percentage of these refugees are in very real danger of being killed if they remain in their home countries.
But, since when has death been a consideration of elected officials who send off our young people to wars of corporate profit and refuse to expand Medicaid in South Carolina for a number of people who will pay for this cynical denial with their lives.
Welcome to America!
Raised rural & small town, then lived in N.Y., Chicago & LA. Widely traveled. Returned from world wandering to pursue media life of anchorman/reporter and major, medium and small market talk radio. Highly active in politics. Once worked as orderly & security in Mens Lock Ward for the Criminally Insane at a state institution. Much more rational population than current Teapublicans. Great concern for country run by and for the extreme wealthy. The inhumane current running through this country has no precedent in modern history.
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