Let’s welcome refugees to Palouse

Guest Opinion

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

Meanwhile in Greensboro, N.C., English Professor Diya Abdo received permission from the Guilford College administration to welcome Syrians to her campus. The Quaker college sheltered runaway 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. The Obama administration has already lined up 180 localities for resettling Syrian refugees. About 785,000 refugees have come to the U. S. since the 9/11 attacks, and only three have been arrested for terrorist activities.

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 are 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.”

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.”

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. 

Across the nation 18 mayors have declared their cities open to Syrian refugees.  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 U of I 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 of the Statue of Liberty and former Governor John Evans’ motto “Idaho is Too Great for Hate.”

University of Idaho professor emeritus Nick Gier taught religion and philosophy at the University of Idaho for 31 years. Read his columns on Islam at www.webpages.uidaho.edu/ngier/IslamPage.htm.

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