ALLENTOWN, Pa. (WPVI) -- In Washington DC, the debate has intensified over the federal government's plan to accept an additional 10,000 refugees from Syria. But the mayor of Allentown continues to welcome Syrian refugees to his city.
Local leaders in Allentown held a news conference Monday asking the public for donations to help the nine families already here from Syria. But once again, the discussion quickly turned to the raging national debate - should Syrian refugees even be allowed in the United States.
Action News met with five siblings who are among the 44 Syrian refugees who have already arrived in Allentown. Their father asked we not show his face for fear that it will lead to retribution against his extended family members who remain in that war torn country.
Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski offered a passionate response to people criticizing him for accepting Syrian refugees, saying if Allentown doesn't, the city will repeat the mistakes made by the American government leading up to World War II.
Mayor Pawlowski said, "We turned away a whole shipload of Jewish refugees because of fear, because of political fear, because of anti-Semitism. Many of them who went back to their deaths in concentration camps."
But there are some Syrian American leaders in Allentown who have lingering concerns about who these refugees are and where they're coming from.
Aziz Wehbey, president of the Syrian American Charity Association, says with the Syrian government and legal infrastructure in shambles, there is no reliable way of knowing who we are allowing into the United States.
So he asks the question: Is it wise to open the borders to people who may come from a region were radical teachings are embraced?
Wehbey says, "If they welcome ISIS in their homeland... I don't want to mess up the future of my children or your children, OK? I want to keep my society clean."
Either way, the future of these refugees in America remains uncertain. For the most part, the political tide across the U.S. is leaning toward closing the borders to Syrian refugees.
With that said, Mayor Pawlowski asked his own question: If an innocent family is in a potentially life or death situation, should we offer help based on their personal or religious backgrounds?
Pawlowski says, "The answer is no. Should we welcome that family into this country? Yes. If we don't, then shame on us as a nation."
Currently, governors from 31 states, not including Pennsylvania, have already said they will not allow Syrian refugees into their state, and legislation about this issue is being debated in Washington.
Meanwhile, if you'd like to help the families from Syria already in Allentown, you can send donations to the Syrian Arab-American Charity Association.
Syrian Arab-American Charity Assoc.
608 North 2nd Street
Allentown, PA. 18102.
Despite critics, Allentown mayor accepts Syrian refugees