Patterson: Syrian refugees in Pontiac would present 'imminent danger'

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It's the debate sweeping our country, should we bring Syrian refugees to America. The city of Pontiac has been planning to do that for some time but now the Oakland County executive wants those plans put on hold.

L. Brooks Patterson is mincing no words after sending a letter to the mayor of Pontiac. He feels there is no way to stop the infiltration of ISIS terrorists and is very worried about them landing in Oakland County.

"It's like watching a guy outside a bank pull down a mask," Patterson said. "You know something bad is going to happen and I think something bad will happen if we don't get tough on our borders."

More specifically Patterson is talking about his own county and is upset that a project in Pontiac is underway that would create a haven where Syrian refugees among others would be able to work live and gather.

On Wednesday he sent a letter to the mayor of Pontiac to stop the development of what he refers to as the "Syrian refugee village."

"I think it's very dangerous, imminent danger if they go ahead," Patterson said. "We have proof now of what can happen look at Paris, France."

Mayor Deidre Waterman says even before the terrorist attacks in Paris, safety has been the top priority - when it came to the Pontiac development.

"I must say this is the first communication I've had from Mr. Patterson on this issue," Waterman said. "I'm equally concerned as he is, as we all are."

A group, Live in Pontiac LLC, recently bought the old Franklin Elementary School on Franklin Road and the 120 vacant lots that surround it.

Waterman plans to let the government dictate who enters the country and she will gauge the citizens on whether they want the project to move forward.

She says if Patterson had a problem with the development, Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner shouldn't have sold the lots to the group in the first place.

"I just want to make sure he knows the facts, that we have already acted in the regard that he is talking about," Waterman said. "The safety and concern is important to me. The fact that he emphasizes it in the letter means that he is aware of it and I am glad he is."

"We don't want to have fights with anyone," said activist Ismael Basha. "When we started doing this we were thinking we were helping Pontiac, helping the Syrian refugees and now we find ourselves in the midst of it."

Basha, who only wanted to help some of the 9 million Syrian refugees who have fled their homes since the outbreak of the civil war, says he plans to meet with Waterman and Patterson, and then decide on the future of this project.

"We need to see what kind of concerns he has on his mind there are lots of details about this project obviously that he doesn't know," Basha said.

"Do I have any legal rights to stop it, probably not," Patterson said. "I can raise hell, and alert public imminent danger about the unvetted Syrian population who came here."

Meisner, who sold the vacant lots, responded with his own statement defending the project and claiming Patterson to be "politicizing" the issue.

He said the program will bring much needed economic development to the city of Pontiac and provide housing for people desperate in need who have undergone “exhaustive" background checks.