Let’s welcome Syrian refugees to the Palouse

By Nick Gier
Reader Staff

On November 21, an estimated 700 people participated in a “Rally for Solidarity with Refugees in Idaho” at the Statehouse. A friend who attended said that “the crowd enthusiastically cheered the speakers and a large number of donations seem to have been collected for the refugees.”

Meanwhile in Greensboro, North Carolina English Professor Diya Abdo received permission from the Guilford College administration to welcome Syrians to her campus. The Quaker college sheltered run-away slaves and also welcomed Japanese-American students during World War II.

A daughter of Palestinian refugees, Abdo knows what it is like to be a stranger in a strange land. So far about a dozen colleges and universities have expressed interest in Abdo’s “Every Campus a Refuge” idea.

Immigration is a federal prerogative and President Obama has full authority to process refugees and accept those who pass the most stringent vetting procedures in the world.

A local Democratic politician has this to say about why terrorists would not choose the refugee route: “So you’re an ISIS terrorist wanting to sneak into the United States, and you decide to choose the refugee program, a two-year process involving repeated interviews, registering with the FBI, registering with Homeland Security, clearance from the CIA, and one that only admits a tiny number of military-age males.”

About 785,000 refugees have come to the U. S. since the 9/11 attacks, and only three have been arrested for terrorist activities. About 750,000 refugees have poured into Europe (38 percent Syrian), and of those screed so far only nine of have been found to have terrorist connections. The Syrian passport found on one of the Paris attackers was a fake, so it does not prove that he was either a Syrian or a refugee.

With regard to the 23,000 Syrians who have applied for asylum, 7,000 were interviewed overseas, and 2,165 were accepted for entry (53 were Christians). Half of this number is children and the rest are divided almost evenly between older women and men.  The Washington Post reports that “only two percent are single males of combat age.”

The second largest number of refugees coming to Idaho were from Iraq. Considering the fact that Bush II’s invasion of Iraq is the primary cause of the rise of Al Qaeda and ISIS, it is absolutely shameful to learn about the small number of Iraqis who have been allowed to come to our shores.

Rep. Heather Scott from North Idaho has called for a special session of the Legislature to stop this “invasion of our country.” She is convinced that “Muslim refugees will press the Islamic agenda of domination and takeover.” But, according to Jan Reeves, the director of the Idaho Office of Refugees, the “invasion” has already begun, and there is nothing that Scott and other Islamophobes can do about it.

At a recent public meeting, where most of 60 present were supportive, Reeves said that “Idaho received 35 refugees from Syria in the past six months, 20 of them children.” Among the 1,062 refugees who entered Idaho in 2014, the largest number (26 percent) were from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The DRC has been a hot bed of terrorist activities with both Muslims and Christian Hutu battling each other.  We should trust the United Nations and our own immigration service that these Africans have been fully vetted, a process that takes 18-24 months.

Reeves was very concerned about Rep. Scott’s alarmist views: “It’s disturbing that this kind of opinion exists in our Legislature. We hope that with good, accurate information and data that we can present a different perspective on refugees in our communities.”

Across the nation 18 mayors have declared their cities open to Syrian refugees.  Mayor Mike Rawlings of Dallas said that he was more afraid of domestic not foreign terrorists.

In setting up the Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs, Baltimore’s Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has been especially proactive. This office helps immigrants get through bureaucratic red tape and makes sure that they get their $288 monthly state benefits. These last only eight months so the city has a jobs training program for them to ease their transition.

I have written University of Idaho President Chuck Staben and asked him if it is possible that our campus can be used to house Syrian refugees.  At press time there was no response. Let us remember the words on the Statue of Liberty—“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”—and former Governor’s John Evans’ motto “Idaho is Too Great for Hate.”

Nick Gier of Moscow taught religion and philosophy at the University of Idaho for 31 years.

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