Ascension Council approves $132 million budget Thursday; amendments are expected _lowres

Advocate staff file photo by BILL FEIG -- Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley

In a Facebook post Wednesday, Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley denounced President Barack Obama’s decision to allow Syrian refugees into the U.S. and took exception to one point in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s executive order seeking to stop those refugees from coming to Louisiana — which law enforcement agencies will monitor the refugees already here.

Jindal’s order, issued Monday, authorizes Louisiana State Police to “utilize all lawful means to monitor and avert threats” within Louisiana, once the State Police receives information of a Syrian refugee living here.

“Governor, almost good enough … but all sheriffs should expect to be immediately notified as well in the event that refugees are located to their respective parishes,” Wiley posted Wednesday on the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.

“I am going on record as opposing any relocation of these Syrian refugees into Ascension Parish until such time that I am made aware of who these ‘new residents’ are, where they will reside and to what extent this administration has gone to investigate all who come to this parish,” Wiley also posted.

In a phone interview Wednesday, Wiley said, “I obviously want to work hand in hand with the State Police, but we’re the ones more likely to be impacted,” referring to local law enforcement agencies.

“If we’re inviting refugees from a war-torn area of the world” that appears to be a center of terrorist activity, “I have expectations as the (parish’s) chief law enforcement officer to know who they are and where they’re coming (from),” Wiley said.

He said he had spoken Wednesday with State Police about his concerns and added he has “every expectation of cooperation there.”

In his Facebook post, Wiley noted that Catholic Charities of New Orleans is currently relocating 13 Syrian refugees in Louisiana. “Who are they? Where are they going? Who knows?” he asks.

A State Department official told WWL-TV that 14 Syrian immigrants had been placed in Louisiana, one in Baton Rouge and the others in Kenner and New Orleans. The refugee who had landed in Baton Rouge has since moved to another state.

Marjorie Esman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, based in New Orleans, said Wednesday the sheriff’s comments are “absolute fear-mongering and racial and ethnic profiling.”

She said refugees from other countries “go through enormous security with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”

“Once in this country, they have the right to move around freely like anybody else,” Esman said. “To say we will scrutinize the Syrians and nobody else is nothing but ethnic and racial profiling, which is unconstitutional.”