PONTIAC (WWJ/AP) – The leader of Michigan’s second-largest county on Wednesday said he opposes a plan to convert an old school into a community center for Syrian refugees and build houses on surrounding land.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said he ordered his departments not to cooperate with the project, although he conceded that the county probably has no direct role. In doing so, Patterson, a Republican, joined a growing number of other elected officials contesting resettlement activities after the deadly attacks in Paris last week.

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He sent a letter to the mayor of Pontiac, Deirdre Waterman, urging her to stop the development and later said he’ll use his “bully pulpit” to sway public opinion.

“Any program such as the acceptance of refugees from Syria under current conditions constitutes an immediate threat of imminent danger,” Patterson wrote. “I am not overreacting to the tragedy that befell Paris. I am pointing out that lax immigration policies contributed to this terror.”

Authorities said fingerprints from an attacker in Paris match those from a refugee who passed through Greece.

Patterson said there are plans to house Syrian refugees in Pontiac in buildings owned by Live In Pontiac LLC and Pontiac Community Investment LLC. The developers have reportedly purchased 120 lots around a former elementary school noted the Detroit Free Press.

Ismael Basha, a business owner who came from Syria in the 1980s, and others are behind the Pontiac project. He said houses would be available to anyone, not just refugees.

“He didn’t call us. He didn’t ask a single question. That’s not leadership,” Basha said of Patterson.

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Told about Basha’s reaction, Patterson said: “That gate swings both ways. I find his shock and dismay to be shallow.”

In September U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced Sunday that the United States would significantly increase the number of worldwide migrants it takes in over the next two years, though not by nearly the amount many activists and former officials have urged.

The U.S. will accept 85,000 refugees from around the world next year, up from 70,000, and that total would rise to 100,000 in 2017, Kerry said at news conference with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier after they discussed the mass migration of Syrians fleeing their civil war.

Patterson has ordered all departments under the county executive not to support Pontiac, Basha and/or Malaz Alatassi in bringing Syrian refugees to Pontiac. He also has insisted Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner cease his role in the project.

Meisner said Patterson was trying to “politicize” a project that Pontiac, a struggling city, greatly needs.

 

 

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