The 50 Afghan refugees expected to move to the Cincinnati region soon will have to wait a few more days before the Hamilton County commissioners officially welcome them to the community.
A seemingly innocuous resolution intended to welcome those Afghan refugees was derailed Thursday during a sometimes sharp exchange among the three commissioners.
In the end, the commissioners tabled until next Thursday the resolution supporting the resettlement efforts for those from Afghanistan and declaring the county a "welcoming community."
It was a symbolic resolution, one government bodies often pass without debate on a regular basis.
But two commissioners were concerned the resolution wasn't welcoming enough.
Commissioners Alicia Reece and Stephanie Dumas wanted to make sure the resolution included Haitians seeking refuge in the region.
Reece said she doesn't see a need for a symbolic resolution at all. But if there's a resolution, it should include Haiti.
"If it doesn't have Haiti, I don't want to talk about it," Reece said about the resolution.
The images and videos in the past week of Customs and Border Protection agents pursuing Haitian migrants in Texas disturbed Dumas and Reece.
"When I see Haiti...this stuff is real," Reece said. "This is touching. This is hurtful. It shouldn't happen. It's emotional."
Dumas wanted the world to know the commissioners care.
"As you can see there are two African Americans up here," Dumas said referring to her and Reece. "We’re thinking even more about the Haitians. It could be my relatives down there. I don’t know."
Officials with Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio still have not received word when the Afghans will arrive. And Catholic Charities officials aren't aware of Haitians seeking asylum in the region anytime soon, according to the organization.
Commissioner Denise Driehaus introduced the resolution at the behest of Compass, a Greater Cincinnati organization that welcomes immigrants. She said the resolution focused on Afghan refugees because it was proposed two weeks ago, before the plight of the Haitian migrants made news, and when the situation in Afghanistan was at the fore.
She said she's not opposed to adding Haiti to the resolution and agreed to table it until next Thursday. She did add language at the bottom mentioning Haitians and supporting their seeking asylum. But the other commissioners want Haitians in the title of the resolution, not at the bottom.
Reece questioned the point of a resolution. County commissioners don't have a say in where refugees locate, Reece said.
"I hope that Hamilton county should be welcoming," Reece said. "My understanding is that they are coming. They don’t have to ask our permission to come."
Reece said they should be more concerned with the needs of local citizens and issues they can control.
"When you come to me, bring something real," Reece said. "I like to do things we have control over. We're welcoming. We've already said we're welcoming ... I'm willing to, in a compromise way, support a resolution I already feel doesn't do much if we go back and get the right language."
Driehaus said the resolution doesn't take anything away from residents.
"I don't view this resolution as an either/or situation where we can't, as we have been doing, help those in need in the community especially related to COVID and ongoing needs," Driehaus said. "I see this as an 'and' conversation, not an 'or' conversation...This is something that puts us on the map as saying we are a welcoming community."