Friends of Refugees

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Archive for the ‘Issues’ Category

Texas anti-refugee lawsuit tossed out

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 16, 2016


A federal district court rejected Texas’s attempt to bar the federal government from resettling Syrian refugees in the state and dismissed the lawsuit. The judge earlier declined to halt the imminent arrival in Texas of a Syrian refugee family.  An article at The Atlantic has the details:

A federal district court rejected Texas’s attempt to bar the federal government from resettling Syrian refugees in the state and dismissed the lawsuit on Wednesday.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission failed to “state a plausible claim for relief” or prove it could challenge the government’s actions under existing law, federal district judge David Godbey ruled…

Godbey…ruled that Congress hadn’t provided Texas or other states with the necessary legal means to challenge federal actions under the Act. Texas acknowledged Congress had provided no explicit mechanism, but argued the law implicitly included one. But this argument failed to convince Godbey, who cited the statute’s history and structure to disprove it.

His order also dismissed the commission’s allegation that the IRC violated its contract with Texas by resettling refugees without proper communication. Texas argued the Refugee Act required the IRC to provide “close cooperation and advance consultation.” But that language is best read as advisory, Godbey wrote, contrasting its vague urgings with more explicit commands elsewhere in the Act… Read more here

and in the San Antonio Express-News:

Representing the nonprofit International Rescue Committee, which has contracted with the state to settle refugees, the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Texas said they hoped that the ruling discourages other states from taking similar actions to oppose people fleeing Syria for their safety.

“Gov. Abbott and Attorney General Paxton didn’t have a legal leg to stand on here, and they knew it. The goal of this wasteful lawsuit had nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with scoring political points on the backs of desperate refugees. We trust Judge Godbey’s ruling will dissuade other states contemplating similar discriminatory measures,” said Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas… Read more here

Posted in ACLU, court, IRC, Syrian, Texas | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Southern Baptists vote to support refugee resettlement

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 16, 2016


The Southern Baptist Convention have voted to approve a resolution encouraging member churches and families to welcome refugees coming to the United States. An article at Christian Post has the vote results:

Amid calls to restrict Muslim immigration, the Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution encouraging member churches and families to welcome refugees coming to the United States.

Messengers at the SBC’s annual meeting in St. Louis, Missouri approved Resolution 12, titled “On Refugee Ministry,” as part of a block vote taken Wednesday on the five remaining resolutions from Tuesday.

“That we affirm that refugees are people loved by God, made in His image, and that Christian love should be extended to them as special objects of God’s mercy in a world that has displaced them from their homelands,” reads Resolution 12.

“That we encourage Southern Baptist churches and families to welcome and adopt refugees into their churches and homes as a means to demonstrate to the nations that our God longs for every tribe, tongue, and nation to be welcomed at His Throne …” Read more here

Posted in Baptist, faith-based, Muslim | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Salt Lake City park becomes safer and more family friendly for local refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 9, 2016


In one of Salt Lake County’s most densely populated refugee and immigrant neighborhoods a park that was once a dreary, graffiti-ridden space has been renovated into a welcoming community gathering place. Sunnyvale Park is next to Millcreek, site to about 2,000 apartments where refugees have settled. The Salt Lake County Office of Township Services worked with community partners to put in new restrooms, a water fountain, and playground equipment. The Sunnyvale Farmers Market will also be opening at the park, which will help address the low access to healthy foods in the neighborhood. An article at the Deseret News has the details:

MILLCREEK — To some, a newly renovated playground is a simply a neighborhood perk.

To the Sunnyvale community, it’s much more than that.

That’s what Salt Lake County officials celebrated Wednesday with the grand reopening of Sunnyvale Park, 4013 S. 700 West, showing off the park’s shiny new swingset, a firetruck-red jungle gym and brand new drinking fountains.

“This is critical to the community,” said Theresa Drulard, Sunnyvale Neighborhood Center coordinator with the Asian Association of Utah, a refugee and immigrant group.

To the residents of about 2,000 apartments in west-side Millcreek — one of Salt Lake County’s most densely populated refugee and immigrant neighborhoods — the park turns what was once a dreary, graffiti-ridden space into a welcoming community gathering place, Drulard said.

“When I first came to this park, there was no running water, the bathrooms were locked and the playground equipment was broken,” she said. “It was really kind of sad.”

Salt Lake County Mayor McAdams said neglected spaces can attract criminal activity, but once parks are improved and utilized more, the area can become safer and more family friendly… Read more here

Posted in safety, Utah | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Minnesotans oppose anti-Muslim sentiment with message of support

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 6, 2016


The Minnesota Council of Churches is leading an effort to oppose anti-Muslim sentiment with a message campaign using yard signs. The lawn signs read, “To our Muslim neighbors: Blessed Ramadan.” An article at KMSP-TV-FOX-9 has the story:

(KMSP) – In the midst of a presidential election filled with talk of discriminating against Muslims, there is a Minnesota-made campaign to fight Islamophobia.

The Minnesota Council of Churches is distributing yard signs… to assure Muslims as they begin Ramadan that Islamophobia is far from a universal feeling. The lawn signs read, “To our Muslim neighbors:  Blessed Ramadan.”

“We have extremely radical Christians who sometimes get violent and Jews who sometimes get violent, Hindus, Buddhists, all over the world. In every religion there are those who go to the extreme, [but] the vast majorities do not and we want to signal to our Muslim friends and neighbors that we know that,” Pastor Tim Hart-Anderson of Westminster Presbyterian Church said. 

One of ISIS’s stated goals is to create, through their violence, Islamophobia in the western world and inflame a divide to push the vast majority of Muslims who do not agree with them to eventually join them anyway… Read more here

Posted in discrimination, Minnesota, Minnesota Council of Churches, Minnesota Council of Churches, Muslim, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Public alarm in Twin Falls quelled with facts despite efforts to foment “pocket of resistance”

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 4, 2016


Just the facts

In the present political climate a void free of facts is a perilous thing, especially when it comes to refugees. Extremist opponents have tried hard to foment “pockets of resistance” around the country. In Twin Falls in Idaho, despite a handful of very vocal opponents shouting at city council meetings about speculative “al-Qaeda plots”, the public listened to the facts and decided to support local refugee resettlement efforts, and an anti-refugee initiative failed miserably. An article at The Economist has the details:

THIS has not been a great election season for cool appeals to reason. Few public debates have strayed as far from Socratic ideals of truth-seeking as those involving refugees…Strikingly, some of the loudest calls to bar new refugee arrivals have come from communities that are rarely, if ever, sent refugees from Syria or other high-risk countries…

A distinctively different sort of refugee debate has gripped the small rural city of Twin Falls, Idaho for the past several months…

National alarm over Syrian arrivals found an echo in Twin Falls late last year. A group of locals launched a petition drive to put a formal ballot initiative before county voters, asking them whether they wanted the refugee centre closed. Rick Martin, the owner of a small repair service for medical devices, was the prime mover behind the petition…he [asserted], and there is a “very, very high potential that [Islamic State] sympathisers are in our community right now.”

…His ballot initiative [however] failed woefully…

City elders and defenders of the refugee centre have a different take. They say that they quelled public alarm with the least fashionable of tools: facts. In particular, supporters of the refugee programme point to the impact of a public forum attended by more than 700 people, organised by the Times-News, and addressed by Twin Falls school, public safety and medical officials…

Patiently, the panellists set out the costs and benefits of receiving a few hundred refugees in Twin Falls each year. Refugees are not a burden on the public purse: they are helped to find work fast, and typically the newcomers pay more in federal taxes in a single year than they receive in their one-off resettlement grants…

Refugees are screened for health problems and commit crimes at an exceedingly low rate, panellists added…

…terror groups trying to infiltrate America would find it much easier to send militants who hold European passports, who can visit without visas.

Wiley Dobbs, superintendent of the Twin Falls school district, told the forum how special services for refugees and immigrant children, including two centres that prepare newcomers to learn in American schools, account for 0.42% of his budget. “There was a lot of false information out there,” Mr Dobbs recalls. “The neat thing is, we were just sharing the facts”… Read more here

Posted in College of Southern Idaho Refugee Center, legislation, right-wing, Syrian, Twin Falls, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

South Carolina anti-refugee bill dies with end of legislative session

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 3, 2016


The South Carolina republican bill that would have required all refugees to register with the state and made religious organizations and other groups that sponsor refugees liable for the refugees if they were ever to commit any crimes has died with the end of the legislative session. The writer of the anti-refugee bill said that the intent of the bill was to make it more difficult for refugees to live in South Carolina. An article at The Herald has the details:

Legislators started this session earlier this year in the midst of an international refugee crisis, as people fleeing conflicts in the Middle East and Africa fled to Europe in ever increasing numbers and President Barack Obama’s announcement that 10,000 additional refugees from the Syrian civil war would be resettled in the United States this year.

But in the aftermath of terror attacks in Paris, France, and San Bernardino, Calif., opposition to admitting more refugees to the United States grew. York County and several other local governments approved resolutions opposing the resettlement plans…

But the bill was never taken up by the House Judiciary Committee, and it officially died when the session ended.

The idea of a refugee registry earned vocal opposition… Read more here

Posted in discrimination, legislation, right-wing, South Carolina, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Anti-refugee voices try to foment “pockets of resistance”

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 3, 2016


A loud minority that are against resettlement are trying to dominate the conversation about refugees in Rutland, Vermont. The ban-Muslims, build-a-wall people give good sound bites and headlines, but they do it with misinformation and distortions in trying to form “pockets of resistance.” An article at the Rutland Herald explains:

…Two weeks ago, an anti-immigration group formed on social media invited James Simpson to speak about the perils of Syrian immigrants coming to the Rutland community. And in a packed, standing-room-only meeting at Rutland Free Library, Simpson detailed the coming plague of sex crimes, diseases such as latent tuberculosis and mosques led by radical imams preaching jihad.

Simpson is affiliated with the extremist Center for Security Policy and has written extensively on developing pockets of resistance in communities such as Rutland to keep Muslims out of the U.S. at all costs.

In his book, “The Red-Green Axis: Refugees, Immigration and the Agenda to Erase America,” Simpson draws upon the work of Refugee Resettlement Watch founder Ann Corcoran, a national leader in the anti-immigration, anti-Muslim movement…

“The opponents (to refugee resettlement) in Rutland are unwittingly being swayed by these hate groups,” he said. “I don’t believe they know who is influencing them, and they would be shocked and appalled at who they are hanging out with.”

“All the information in these articles are complete lies about how it happened in Rutland,” Louras said. “It’s shameful that any Rutlanders would buy into anything that is said by these groups. This pocket of resistance is not representative of the larger community, and they are a vocal misguided minority”… Read more here

Posted in right-wing, Vermont, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

North Carolina should ensure US continues as land of opportunity for those having lost much, argues veteran

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 1, 2016


Republicans have introduced a bill into the North Carolina House that create a climate of hostility for refugees. The bill, known as the “Refugee Resettlement Act” would prohibit local governments from requesting refugees unless they document they are capable of resettling them and require they hold a public hearing on the issue. The bill would also allow jurisdictions to ask for a moratorium on resettling refugees by documenting their lack of capacity and the potential “harm” refugees may pose to local residents. Once a moratorium is approved, getting it lifted would be a difficult process, requiring localities to hold a public hearing, adopt a resolution and receive approval from the head of the State’s Refugee Assistance Program before moving forward. A retired Marine officer involved with Veterans for American Ideals argues that the United States has a longstanding tradition of being open to and inclusive of those wishing to come to our country, especially those who are most vulnerable and most in need, which the bill runs contrary to on every level. His Op-ed in The News & Observer in Raleigh makes the case:

…By welcoming refugees into our communities, we do not weaken our national security, we in fact strengthen it. In welcoming refugees from Syria and other countries of the Middle East, we undermine ISIS’ propaganda narrative that the West is hostile toward Muslims. Instead, we demonstrate the United States provides the freedom, the hope and the compassion that ISIS lacks in its brutal campaign of terror against its fellow Muslims…

The United States of America has a longstanding tradition of being open to and inclusive of those wishing to come to our country, especially those who are most vulnerable and most in need. North Carolina should reject this bill and hold to its duty to ensure that the United States continues to be seen as a land of new opportunity and a hoped for and cherished new homeland for those who have lost so much. We must remain, as citizens of this great country, Semper Fidelis… Read more here

Posted in legislation, North Carolina, right-wing, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Editorial asks Tenn. Attorney General Herbert Slatery to not participate in anti-refugee scheme

Posted by Christopher Coen on May 26, 2016


The Tennessee legislature measure to force the state attorney general to sue the federal government over refugee resettlement is based on two erroneous contentions: 1) that forcing states to provide Medicaid services to refugees amounts to unconstitutional coercion, and 2) that the federal government has violated the law by not consulting with the state on refugee resettlement. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that the Affordable Care Act’s original requirement that states expand Medicaid to cover new categories of recipients or risk losing existing Medicaid funding amounted to a new program that states had no choice but to accept. In addition, the Tennessee Office for Refugees essentially acts as a stand-in for the state in working with the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) since Tennessee opted out of the federal refugee program in 2007 and designated Catholic Charities to run the Tennessee Office for Refugees. An article in the Knoxville News Sentinel explains:

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam was wise to wash his hands of the Legislature’s misguided quest to sue the federal government over its refugee resettlement program. Attorney General Herbert Slatery III needs to be next in line at the sink.

Last week Haslam allowed a joint resolution clamoring for a lawsuit to go into effect without his signature, a signal of the governor’s disdain for the effort.

Inspired by the Obama administration’s plan to accept up to 10,000 refugees from war-torn Syria, the resolution calls on Slatery to take some sort of legal action against the federal government. Slatery already has explained to lawmakers in an advisory opinion that the federal government has exclusive authority over the acceptance and resettlement of refugees.

If Slatery opts not to file a lawsuit, the resolution authorizes the House and Senate speakers to hire outside counsel. According to supporters of the measure, a Michigan-based nonprofit public interest law firm is willing to provide free legal services to the state… Read more here

Posted in Catholic Charities of Tennessee, legislation, ORR, Syrian, Tennessee | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Gay refugee couple separated by 2,500 miles

Posted by Christopher Coen on May 25, 2016


Unlike married opposite-sex couples, there is no guarantee LGBT couples will be resettled together. A Syrian gay male couple have found themselves 2,500 miles apart – one resettled in Norway and the other in Turkey, awaiting news of his own permanent settlement. An article at Washington D.C.’s Metro Weekly has the story:

…Ahmed (whose identity remained anonymous, as he wasn’t out to his family) has been separated from his partner, Joseph Mardelli, due to the discriminatory way that gay Syrian refugees are being processed.

Unlike heterosexual couples, who can be processed together and take their families wherever they’re resettled, gay Syrians are impacted by two layers of discrimination: Syria doesn’t recognize their relationship, and neither does Turkey, which currently shelters about 2.7 million Syrians. As a result, same-sex couples are often resettled separate from one another.

In Ahmed and Joseph’s case, it’s a distance of 2,500 miles. Joseph has been resettled in Norway, while Ahmed is in Istanbul, awaiting news on his own permanent settlement… Read more here

Posted in LGBT refugees, men, Syrian | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


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