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Montana is an example of anti-refugee sentiment spilling forth in wake of Trump victory

This is an Associated Press story that ran on Christmas day so not sure how many of you saw it.

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S.K. Rossi

For background, Montana had a small refugee program many years ago, but up until this year it was alone with Wyoming in not having one at all.  That changed in 2016 as Missoula ‘welcomed’ its first African and Middle Eastern refugees. I traveled to the state this summer and can attest to the sentiment outlined in this story.

For new readers you might like to see our Montana archive, here.

S.K. Rossi, advocacy and policy director for the ACLU of Montana: “It’s pretty widely known that this is going to be a hard year…”

From AP at The Seattle Times:

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The push to restrict refugee resettlements and immigration in the U.S. that figured so prominently in Donald Trump’s election is now headed to states that are preparing to convene their legislative sessions early next year, immigration advocates said.

In Montana, which took in just nine refugee families from January to early December, about a dozen bill requests related to refugees, immigration and terrorism have been filed ahead of next month’s session. The measures include requiring resettlement agencies to carry insurance that would defray the cost of prosecuting refugees who commit violent crimes and allowing towns and cities to request a moratorium on resettlements in their communities.

Refugee rights advocates say those measures are a sign of what is to come as the anti-refugee rhetoric that featured prominently in the presidential election spills over to statehouses and local governments.

“It’s pretty widely known that this is going to be a hard year for those of us who are seeking to protect the rights of refugees and immigrants,” said S.K. Rossi, advocacy and policy director for the ACLU of Montana.

The president-elect campaigned on building a border wall with Mexico to stop illegal immigration, deporting immigrants who are in the nation illegally and halting the resettlement of refugees to strengthen the federal program that vets them.

[….]

“It absolutely does not end with the presidential election,” McKenzie [Michele McKenzie, deputy director of the Minneapolis organization The Advocates for Human Rights] said. “It’s a national strategy by a small but organized group of anti-immigration advocates and anti-refugee advocates.”

[….]

“We need to get serious,” said Nancy Ballance, a Republican state representative from Ravalli County.

Ballance said refugees are a “gigantic issue” in her southwestern Montana county, just south of the liberal college city of Missoula. “People expect to see some legislation brought,” she said.

It is pretty clear that legally state legislators can’t do much to change the US Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), but here we have the ACLU lobbyist making the crucial point about efforts in the Montana (yours too!) legislature.

“Filing this and making it a public conversation automatically undermines the refugee process,” Rossi said.

“They can’t legally undermine the process, but they can socially undermine the process.”

Continue reading here.

Trickle up!

You have a right to ask questions and demand that your elected officials at all levels of government be transparent, and consider your economic worries and your safety concerns when the federal government targets your communities.

Efforts like these in the Montana legislature are important to help create controversy because the ultimate goal is for the controversy to ‘trickle up’ to Congress and to the new Trump Administration. There is no doubt that the USRAP must be trashed or reformed, but that pressure must come from the states (and local governments) to Washington.  Politicians hate noise and so it is your job as grassroots activists to make political noise!

To that end, since Montana’s lone House member is likely going to the Trump Interior Department, it is critical that you, in Montana, make the selection of his replacement a referendum on the refugee program. See The Hill (scroll down to Rep. Zinke).

Endnote: I am off to jury duty, be back later!

Ten reasons for a Moratorium on the UN/U.S. Refugee Admissions Program

I am sending a list of the ten reasons for a Moratorium to the U.S.State Department today.  If you have followed RRW for years you will recognize this as a modification of the first testimony I sent in 2012.  Frankly, nothing much has changed!

Some things have gotten worse. Only one issue I raised then has been improved—they get the ORR Annual Reports to Congress done more quickly.  They still aren’t getting them to Congress when the law says they should, but almost.

One issue that is much worse is the prospect that an Islamic terrorist could slip into the refugee flow to America with the huge increase in the number of refugees coming from Syria, Iraq and Somalia.

However, for the first time in the almost 9 years I’ve written this blog, there is a little window of hope that the Refugee Admissions Program could be dramatically altered if President Donald Trump does half of what he says he will do (and Congress does its job of reviewing the entire program).

If Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders are elected President, this program will continue on steroids. There will be no reform.

Here are ten points slightly modified, but essentially the same as I sent to the State Department 4 years ago.

Ten Reasons there should be no refugees resettled in the US in FY2017—instead a moratorium should be put in place until the program is reformed (or abolished), the economy completely recovers, and we are assured that security screening will protect us.

american out of work illegalsWhy?

1)    Refugees take jobs that low-skilled Americans and teens need. The program was never meant to be simply a way to import impoverished people to the US and place them on an already overtaxed welfare system. Those that do find work are taking jobs that American citizens need.

2)  The program has become a cash cow for various ‘religious’ organizations and other contractors who very often appear to care more about the next group of refugees coming in (and the cash that comes with each one) than the group they resettled only a few months earlier. Stories of refugees suffering throughout the US are rampant.

Indeed, there is no accountability for the billions of tax payer dollars going to the program. Short of a complete halt to resettlement-by-contractor, taxpayers should be protected by legally requiring financial audits of contractors and subcontractors on an annual basis.

3)   Terrorist organizations have threatened to use the program that still clearly has many failings in the security screening system.  Indeed consideration should be given to halting the resettlement of Muslims altogether.  Also, the UN should have no role in choosing refugees for the US.  There is no reason we can’t make the decision about who we want to ‘welcome’ to America without UN meddling.

4)    The public is not confident that screenings for potential terrorists (#3) or the incidences of other types of fraudulent entry are being properly and thoroughly investigated and stopped.  When fraud is uncovered—either fraud to enter the country or illegal activity once the refugee has been resettled—punishment should be immediate deportation.

5)    Congress has not specifically disallowed the use of the refugee program for other purposes of the US Government, especially using certain refugee populations to address other foreign policy objectives—Uzbeks, Kosovars, Meshketians, Syrians, Iraqis, Somalis, and Bhutanese (Nepalese) people come to mind.

6)    The State Department and the ORR have so far failed to adequately determine and report (and track once the refugee has been admitted) the myriad communicable and costly-to-treat diseases entering the country with the refugee population. Refugees suffering from serious (and expensive) mental health issues should be screened-out.

7)  There is no process for alerting communities to the impending arrival of refugees that includes reports from the federal government (with local input) about the social and economic impact a certain new group of refugees will have on a city or town. Such a report should be presented to the public through public hearings and the local government must have an opportunity to say ‘no.’

8)  The federal government should not be acting as head-hunter for corporations (like the meatpackers!). Congress needs to investigate and specifically disallow any connection between this program and big businesses looking for cheap and captive labor.

9)  If Congress and the President determine we must have some refugee program, a mechanism should be established that would help a refugee go home if he or she is unhappy or simply can’t make it in America. 

10) If during a moratorium, the Congress and the President decide that a refugee program of some sort is needed, the VOLAG system should be completely abolished and the program should be run by state agencies with accountability to the public through their state legislatures. The system as presently constituted is surely unconstitutional.  (One of many benefits of turning the program over to a state agency is to break up the government/contractor employee revolving door that is being demonstrated now at both the State Department and ORR.)

For these reasons and more, the Refugee admissions program should be placed on hold and a serious effort made by Congress to either scrap the whole thing or reform it during the moratorium.  My recommendation for 2017 is to stop the program now.

The Office of the President/US State Department could indeed ask for Congressional hearings to review the Refugee Act of 1980-–more than three decades is time enough to see its failings and determine if reauthorization is feasible or if a whole new law needs to be written.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Pakistani with Fake Ecuadorean Passport Enters U.S. via Mexico Multiple Times

22% of Resettled Refugees in Minnesota Test Positive for Tuberculosis

Somalis carrying millions of dollars out of US in suitcases; are welfare benefits going to Somalia?

How a Syrian seed community will be built in Eugene, Oregon (around one initial seedling)

Testimony to the US State Department from Shoemaker in South Carolina

International Rescue Committee expanding, Richmond added to sites in Virginia

U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul use the “M” word! MORATORIUM! Trump follows with ban!

Be still my beating heart!  There it is, out there—the M-word!  Several of them in fact!  Moratorium on Muslim Migration!

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I started to write this post yesterday, then spent the day running out to the doctor (nothing is fast with doctors these days, have you noticed that) and as I’m trying to read news on my phone, the Cruz and Paul news was eclipsed by The Donald news when he jumped on the bandwagon.

However, all of the news reports I was reading and hearing claimed Donald Trump was alone in his call for a ban on Muslim migration to America.  He was actually the third Presidential candidate to make that call. Trump called it a “ban,” but that sounds like moratorium to me.

This is what I started to write about yesterday from Julia Hahn at Breitbart.   She has Senator Cruz uttering the word and I heard Senator Paul say it on Fox News yesterday morning!

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Presidential candidates Sens. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) are demanding a halt to immigration from Muslim nations with jihadist movements.

Their fellow contender, Sen. Marco Rubio, did not call for curbs to Muslim immigration in his live response to the President address on Fox News – a response promoted by Rubio’s campaign.

Cruz tweeted that if elected president, “I will shut down the broken immigration system that is letting jihadists into our country.” Cruz elaborated in a statement:

The President should place an immediate moratorium on refugees from countries with a significant al Qaeda or ISIS presence, such as Syria. I’ve introduced legislation to make this happen; it is not a desired step, but a necessary step for the security of the United States.

Similarly, Rand Paul tweeted, “While ‪@POTUS paid lip service to this fight, he plans to keep failed rules in place & allow tens of thousands of refugees to enter the US.”

“Immigration visas & refugees from countries with active terror networks must be halted while we determine how to better secure our borders,” Paul in a separate tweet. “His administration is focused on gun laws that won’t stop terrorists while pushing policies that will let more of them in the country,” Paul wrote.

Continue reading here.

Go here to see the ten Senators who might be counted on to support these calls.

Action Alert!  It is not too late, go here and follow instructions to call Congress today!  Stopping the funding for refugee resettlement is the surest way to get the job done immediately!  Details can be worked out once the money is cut off!  If they can cut off the visas too, more power to them!

RELATED ARTICLES: 

Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Dick Cheney don’t get it! Bring in the Muslims!

Homeland Security Committee Chairman McCaul: ISIS has tried to infiltrate refugee stream to U.S.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image of Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz is by AP/John Locher/Reuters/Carlos Barria/Photo montage by Salon.

16 Governors want Syrian Muslim Resettlement Suspended

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan becomes the first Democrat to want an opt-out on Syrian refugee resettlement. Of course, we wonder if the U.S. State Department will be honoring their requests, but you can be sure we will be watching with great interest! The governors may be soon get an unwelcome message on states rights.

map syrian refugees in us

Those blue circles represent where Syrian refugees have been resettled so far (since 2012) and the states whose governors are now saying NO, are in yellow. Go to the original map because the cities are on it as well.

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Democrat New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan

From The Hill:

Fifteen Republican governors and one Democrat have announced plans to block Syrian refugees from resettling in their states in the wake of last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley issued statements Sunday saying that they wanted to prioritize the safety of the residents in their states.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a GOP presidential candidate; Arkansas Gov. Gov. Asa Hutchinson; Indiana Gov. Mike Pence; Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant; Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner; Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker; Florida Gov. Rick Scott; North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory; Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican presidential candidate; Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; and Maine Gov. Paul LePage joined them on Monday.

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, who is challenging Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) for her Senate seat, became the first Democratic governor to call for halting the acceptance of refugees until the vetting process is reviewed.

More here.

states taking syrian migrants cnn

I don’t want to diminish this major breakthrough in garnering attention for this here-to-fore secretive refugee program, but tomorrow, when I get a minute I am going to have to remind readers about the thousands and thousands of Iraqi, Afghan, Burmese and Somali Muslims pouring into the US through the RAP (Refugee Admissions Program) every year as we fixate on the small number of Syrians so far.

I’m telling you they can’t screen most of those any better (especially those Somalis who have left Africa and traveled illegally to places like Malta in Europe where we scoop up their illegal aliens, call them refugees, and fly them to America—including to South Carolina as we learned earlier this year).

RELATED ARTICLES:

Tennessee GOP leader: Round up Syrian refugees, remove from state

NYT: Eight governors (so far) have said they don’t want Syrians resettled in their states

City of Sarasota: No to new businesses, yes to panhandling

Sarasota City Commissioners

The City of Sarasota Commission voted to impose a moratorium on new bars, taverns and nightclubs. This action led City Attorney Robert M. Fornier to write a letter (below left) to the Commission to “determine if there is legally sufficient justification to impose a moratorium”. For many residents this moratorium is looked upon as a back door way of imposing a noise ordinance within the city limits.

Click on image for a larger view.

There is a City Commission election on May 14th and one of the hot button issues is a noise ordinance. After a March runoff there are three candidate vying for two city commission seats. Two of the candidates, Richard Dorfman and Susanne Atwell have said they will vote against the noise ordinance. Susan Chapman favors the noise ordinance. The City Commission postponed a vote on the noise ordinance until after the election. This moratorium will only add to the controversy.

Sarasota artists have created a Facebook page and Noise Ordinance website allowing citizens to post comments about the proposed ordinance.

Photo courtesy of Channel !0 News Tampa, FL.

The City Commission in February allowed panhandling. 

Lee Williams from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported, “The City of Sarasota and the American Civil Liberties Union have signed a consent decree that stops police from ‘interfering with the exercise of First Amendment rights’ when dealing with the homeless. The decree, a 60-day injunction, prohibits police from interfering with panhandlers — someone standing on a sidewalk soliciting assistance — unless they impede traffic, pedestrians or create an unsafe situation.”

Panhandlers are becoming more visable and aggressive within the City of Sarasota. Citizens have complained and yet the current City Commissioners have decided that panhandling is a free speech right.

This consent decree with the ACLU led to multiple panhandlers showing up at major intersections and soliciting handouts from passers by and those in cars at stop lights. According to Linda Hersey from Sarasota Patch, “Most of the Patch readers who responded to a post about panhandling on city streets are frustrated by the numbers of people with a hand out, asking for money. Sarasota city commissioners plan to fast track a proposed ordinance that would curb panhandling on Sarasota streets.”

Currently in the City of Sarasota a select group of businesses are being targeted, while panhandlers are welcomed. At least until the Commission meets again?