By Cameron Rasmusson
In contrast to the anti-refugee sentiment coming from county government, Sandpoint officials are planning to introduce a measure supporting Syrian refugee resettlement in Idaho.
According to Mayor Carrie Logan, the gesture of support would come as a either a mayoral proclamation or resolution, or perhaps both. Whatever form it takes, it will serve as a counterpoint to the resolutions from North Idaho county commissioners voicing opposition to refugee resettlement.
“Because of our city’s history of supporting human rights, we thought it important to restate in the context of the discussion about immigration and refugees,” Logan said.
If a resolution is introduced for council consideration and members pass it—an action that would take place at the earliest by Jan. 6—it will put the city in direct contrast to Bonner and Boundary counties. District 1 Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, and Bonner County Sheriff have both been vocal in their opposition of refugee resettlement out of concern in will make communities vulnerable to terror attacks. On Dec. 1, Bonner County commissioners adopted a resolution urging Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter to halt the resettlement program using any means available. The following Monday, Boundary County commissioners passed a similar resolution. In both cases, the meetings attracted large crowds and several public comments, most of which opposed the federal government’s resettlement program.
“The biggest motivation for me [in suggesting the measure] was the commissioner’s and sheriff’s support of the anti-refugee resolution a few weeks ago,” Logan said.
The planned measure follows comments from some residents worried about the effect of county commissioners’ resolutions on Sandpoint’s reputation. The few comments opposing commissioners’ resolutions at public meetings highlighted North Idaho’s struggles with perceptions that the region is a haven for racists and xenophobes. Actions that reinforced that image, they feared, would reduce tourism and hurt local businesses. Logan said that’s not one of her biggest considerations in introducing the measure, but it is a factor.
“I have some concern—although not a whole lot—about perpetuating the past reputation of our area as being racist,” she said.
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