Oklahoma GOP leaders clash over whether to welcome Afghan refugees to the state

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – More than 1,800 Afghan refugees will soon head to Oklahoma, and although the governor has been supportive of the news, the Oklahoma Chairman of the Republican Party has voiced his concerns over the screening process.

“We’ve vetted all the folks and we’re excited to welcome them,” Gov. Kevin Stitt told the media early Thursday morning. “We’re excited to open up our arms…we’re excited to welcome them and show them the Oklahoma standard.”

Chairman John Bennett expressed his apprehension in an Oklahoma GOP video released Saturday.

“I was on the ground in Afghanistan and there is no way that we can properly vet these people,” Bennett said. “If the government says otherwise, they are lying to you.”

He later encouraged Oklahomans to call their elected officials and “tell them do not allow Afghan refugees into Oklahoma.”

Adam Soltani, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), has since responded to that video.

“What he’s doing is absolutely wrong,” Soltani said. “It’s putting people’s lives in danger, it’s basically spreading division when we need unity in our state and our country now more than ever.”

Soltani said anyone who has negative stereotypes about Muslim people should reach out and ask questions.

“We’ll be more than happy to answer those questions and get to know the refugees as they come in,” he said. “Don’t rely on those who don’t know or think that they know to inform you. Go to the source and let’s work together to spread love and peace in our state and our country.”

Catholic charities is playing a key role in bringing over refugees to the state and they directed us to the federal refugee screening process.

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According to the United States citizenship and immigration services website, they have a seven step screening process for all refugees allowed into the country.

Customs and Border Protection ultimately makes the final determination about whether to admit a refugee.

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