Local leaders react to Syrian refugee issue

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The resettling of refugees is a hot button issue. (WPVI)

The resettling of refugees is a hot button issue.

The questions: How well do we know their background? Could a terrorist slip by?

"We have to make sure that those who try to bring us harm can be vetted and prevented from coming into the country and if they bring us harm, we have to prosecute them," Democratic Senator Bob Casey said.

But Republicans point to a recent remark from the FBI director that there are gaps in the vetting process. They want it suspended until it's more reliable.

"I think we have to be careful to delay it until we know that there's the capacity to be able to be sure we are not importing terrorists," Republican Congressman Pat Meehan said.

For more than a century Syrians, mostly Christians, have been a part of immigrant life in the Lehigh Valley.

Aziz Wehbe, a businessman in the car trade and a civic leader, worries about an influx of poorly vetted newcomers.

He is part of a group that demonstrates in support of the Assad government, believing it is the best bet to protect religious and ethnic minorities in Syria.

If the government falls the fear is an Isis directed bloodbath.

Wehbey's concern is that refugees who back the overthrow of Assad could import deadly quarrels to our shores.

He points to reports at least one of attackers in Paris likely arrived with refugees.

"A large group among them were actually fighters in Syria and the Syrian TV warned about them, the Russian TV warned about them, a lot of social media and Syria warned about them, and we saw what happened in France," Wehbey said.

There is no precise numbers, but it's estimated between 15,000 and 20,000 people in the Lehigh Valley can trace their families back to Syria. The first immigrants came here in the 1890s.

As far as the new refugees, it's been reported that around 40 have been relocated to the Lehigh Valley since last March.

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