It was standing-room only at a council meeting in semi-rural Pickens County, South Carolina, Monday night, as residents flooded the chambers, many of them interested in one topic – the potential of Syrian Muslim refugees being resettled in their county.
On Sunday in Twin Falls, Idaho, more than 100 people marched through town with signs and U.S. flags, protesting refugee resettlement in their town and demanding that a local community college shut down its resettlement office.
On Oct. 6 in Redlands, California, a woman affiliated with a local tea-party group stood up at a city council meeting and voiced her concerns about possible Muslim refugees being injected into the community from Syria.
In St. Cloud, Minnesota, a group of concerned citizens became visibly upset at a townhall last Tuesday when Gov. Mark Dayton announced that anyone who is not comfortable with that state’s growing diversity, including its expanding Somali refugee population, “should find another state” because Minnesota’s economy “cannot expand based on white, B+, native-born citizens. We don’t have enough.”
Dayton said he was aware of the racial tensions in St. Cloud with regard to Somali refugees.
“If you are that intolerant, if you are that much of a racist or a bigot, then find another state,” he said, as reported by the Daily Globe. “Find a state where the minority population is 1 percent or whatever. It’s not that in Minnesota. It’s not going to be again.”
All of these developments have pro-immigrant groups worried about the growing “backlash” against America’s fast-growing population of recent immigrants and refugees from Muslim lands in the Middle East and Africa.
From Syria alone, there will be 10,000 coming over the next year, and at least that many more in 2017. The Obama administration wants to bring nearly 200,000 refugees from all nations to the U.S. over the next 24 months.
And the organizations that rake in millions of dollars in government cash working on these resettlements are getting nervous that their plans are coming under growing scrutiny at the local level.
That much is evident by examining the presentations lined up for a major pro-immigration conference set in New York City in December. The conference includes break-out sessions on how to counter the growing “backlash” against refugees, “particularly Muslim refugees,” according to organizers of the National Immigrant Integration Conference.
Countering the backlash
The theme of this year’s conference is “New American Dreams,” picking up the theme of the White House Taskforce on New Americans, which aims to convert 5 million refugees and recent immigrants into “New Americans” armed with full citizenship and voting rights.
But every day more Americans are finding out how the refugee resettlement program works, and most of them don’t like what they see, says refugee watchdog Ann Corcoran, author of the Refugee Resettlement Watch blog.
People are holding protest rallies in Idaho and petition drives in North Dakota. They’re approaching their city and county leaders with questions in California, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota. And in South Carolina, grassroots activists are educating their local leaders and asking them to block the arrival of refugees. It happened Monday night in Pickens County, where the county council voted unanimously to block funding for any federal refugee resettlements, citing costs and security concerns.
“Technically, they don’t have any legal way to stop them, but the federal government is unlikely to send refugees where they know they won’t be welcomed,” Corcoran told WND. “This is what people need to understand. At the national level, there is no legal recourse. People will talk about the 10th Amendment and states’ rights, but it’s never been tested.”
But Corcoran said there is plenty that citizen activists can do at the grassroots level to cause problems for pushers of refugee resettlement. An informed citizenry is their “worst nightmare,” she said.
This is an industry that, until recently, had operated below the radar in nearly 200 cities across 48 states. A network of church groups, nonprofits and foundations has worked quietly with the federal government and the United Nations to bring more than 3 million foreign refugees into the United States since 1990, about half of them from Muslim-dominated countries with heavy jihadist populations like Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and now Syria.
It is also a system that is inherently biased against the most persecuted group of refugees in the world – Christians, Corcoran said.
More than 97 percent of the nearly 2,000 Syrians resettled in the United States so far have been Muslim, for instance.
In an effort to counter the pushback, the issue will be taken up at the nation’s largest pro-immigrant conference Dec. 13-15 in New York City. An entire breakout session will address the growing challenges to Muslim resettlement in the United States.
The planners of the session, titled “Understanding and Addressing Today’s Organized Backlash Against Muslim Immigrants and Refugees,” accuse anyone who opposes the “transformation” of their community through Muslim immigration of being “Islamophobic.”
Those “fueling” the pushback against refugee resettlement will be “identified,” and a plan of attack will be put forth. The following are the exact words from the conference program guide:
“This session will explore the resurgence of anti-immigrant and Islamophobic rhetoric and activism and the recent use of Islamophobia to undermine refugee resettlement. This new development has implications for receiving communities and for refugee resettlement, particularly of Muslim refugees. How does this backlash against resettlement fit within the broader attacks on Muslims in the U.S. and what are the best ways to respond? Who are the key actors fueling this campaign and how is their message spreading? Hear from experts from the Muslim community and from refugee resettlement leaders about this new challenge and potential responses.”
The “experts” from the Muslim community are likely to be affiliated with the Council for Islamic-American Relations or CAIR, a Muslim civil liberties organization with ties to the international Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. These ties are documented in the court records of the 2007 Holy Land Foundation trial, the largest terror-financing trial ever conducted on U.S. soil.
As for the “key actors” who are fueling the pushback against refugees, critics say law-abiding Americans concerned about the safety and security of their communities have every right to speak out and ask questions.
Dr. Mark Christian, a former child imam born into a prominent Muslim family in Egypt who later broke away from the Islamic faith and became a Christian, said the “key actors” driving the backlash against Muslim immigration are the Muslims themselves.
“They are using their Twitter accounts on a daily basis to communicate their agenda of hatred against Jews and Christians, and by their actions in Europe, in Israel and throughout the Middle East where they are killing non-Muslims,” Christian said. “People are afraid when they see what Muslims are doing on a regular basis in their own countries – in Iraq, Egypt, Syria and Pakistan against the Christians and in Israel against the Jews. The main reason for their fear is they see what’s happening in the Middle East, and they don’t want that to be transferred to their state, their city, their neighborhood.”
Christian called it “an atrocity” to “blame the messenger” instead of looking at the main message of violence that is going out from Muslims worldwide.
“Should we be hiding the truth? Should we be putting our heads in the sand?” Christian asked. “So go talk about global warming and the whales not having enough salt in the sea and you will be invited to their next event, because John Kerry says climate change helped cause the Syrian civil war and the rise of ISIS.”
The local democratic process – where local residents attend local meetings and ask pointed questions of their local elected representatives – is deemed offensive to the refugee resettlers, Corcoran said. They would rather meet behind closed doors with pre-invited “stakeholders,” but citizen activists are demanding more transparency in the refugee resettlement process.
“I have a bird’s-eye view of it because I hear from so many different places around the country. So I am very encouraged at what I am seeing,” Corcoran told WND. “They clearly are scared or they wouldn’t be dedicating an entire session to this at their biggest conference of the year. In the one little description, they used the word ‘Islamophobe’ repeatedly, so we see what their strategy is. They will attempt to denigrate and demonize anyone who questions why their local community is being transformed demographically without so much as a public hearing, let alone a vote of the public.”
Demonizing the opposition
This strategy of demonization is playing out with limited success around the country.
On Oct. 6, a tea-party group approached the city council in Redlands, California, and asked representatives on the council to put out a plan for keeping the city safe from any potential Syrian refugee resettlements.
The Redlands Daily Facts reported that Victoria Hargrave, a local resident affiliated with the tea party, stood up at her local council meeting and said, “Our nation is based on Judeo-Christian beliefs, and we value freedom of speech, freedom of religion and property rights as protected by the Constitution.” She said Muslims reject these values and are coming to America to impose Shariah law.
The local newspaper followed up by calling the regional CAIR leader, who berated Hargrave and those she represented as ignorant bigots.
“This paranoia and phobia is rooted in a combination of ignorance and bigotry,” Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Los Angeles CAIR chapter and chairman of the Syrian American Council, told the newspaper about the Redlands tea-party concerns.
The Islamic Community Center of Redlands invited the public to an “Open Mosque Day” in the wake of Hargrave’s comments at the council meeting.
Mohammad Hossain, founder of the Islamic Center of Redlands, said the refugees are “homeless and have nothing, so everybody has a duty to help them – that they would be grateful and not commit violence.”
“I wonder,” mused Corcoran, “would the mosque and CAIR be involved at all if we were saving mostly Christian Syrians and not resettling mostly Muslims, as we are now?”
Changing America by changing its people
The conference in New York will offer another breakout session on “How new waves of Asian and African migration are transforming receiving communities.” The term “Asians” includes those from the Middle East including Iraq, Iran, Burma, Afghanistan and Pakistan – all of which are sending Muslims to the U.S.
In this session, the presenters brag about how they are “transforming” communities and creating “shifts in influence” that lead to “changing the narrative on immigration” by sending “new waves” of Muslims from the Middle East and Africa into communities nationwide.
While the backlash against Muslim refugees has started to resonate with some local officials in conservative areas of the nation, others remain dead-set on bringing in more refugees from some of the worst jihadist hotbeds of the world, such as Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia.
And they’re not all Democrats like Dayton in Minnesota.
GOP Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina told her state’s concerned citizens she “trusts” the federal government’s vetting system and is not concerned that terrorists could infiltrate the ranks of refugees. This despite the fact that a top FBI counter-terrorism agent testified before the House Homeland Security committee on Feb. 11 and said vetting refugees from a “failed state” like Syria was virtually impossible.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan has asked the federal government to send more Syrian refugees to his state.
In the comments section of the Detroit News article that reported Synder’s efforts to convince the Obama administration to send his state more Syrians, the vast majority of readers were not in agreement with their governor’s plans:
“… the boy blunder, will do anything to help the democrat voter base … yet as a Service Connected veteran I cannot get an anti-biotic for a impacted tooth,” wrote one reader, Elmo Hickey.
“We have people going hungry and homeless vets … and look at our seniors … sad … quit worrying about all these people. We need help here … we pay taxes … they don’t … wake up,” wrote Linda Taylor.
“What is Snyder’s plan for keeping political Islam out of Detroit and addressing it elsewhere in Michigan? He better have a plan because he is opening the door to many who will not respect our Constitution or our political system. I suggest you call his office and see what kind of response you get. As usual, he has not thought this trough assessing the probable consequences,” wrote Clifton Dawley.
Vincent Jo said, “We don’t have the money to care for our own citizens. Why are we bringing in more? Saudi, Iran, UAE, etc., need to step up and shelter their own. They are filthy rich. Michigan has no money. The feds have no money. Just say NO!”
Another reader, Johnson Landis, chimed in with, “How about fixing the roads instead?”
Mayors beg for more refugees
Besides the many governors like Dayton, Haley and Snyder, 18 mayors across the nation are also begging the federal government to send them more Syrian refugees.
One such mayor is Ed Pawlowski of Allentown, Pennsylvania.
As NPR reported Monday, Pawlowski said he received more than 2,000 email messages within 24 hours when he announced his intent to “welcome” Syrian refugees to his town. He said most of the messages came from outside his city.
At a recent informational meeting put on by a Lutheran-affiliated resettlement agency in Allentown, the agency “got more than they bargained for” when a group of tea-party activists showed up, reported the Morning Call.
People started asking questions about costs to local school and health systems, and security concerns about potential terrorists.
“So half the meeting turned out to be about whether there would be terrorists coming or not,” Corcoran said. “It was beautiful. Democracy in action.”
A check of the IRS tax return for the Lutheran Family and Children Services of Eastern Pennsylvania shows that its CEO, Luanne Fisher, makes $400,000 a year and three other staffers bring home six-figure salaries. Almost $9 million of the nonprofit’s $14 million in revenue went to salaries, pensions, benefits and management, not to the refugees. Of its $14 million in revenue, $13.5 million comes from government grants.
Spreading the burden
Corcoran points out that because so many cities and towns have balked at receiving refugees, the resettlement industry is increasingly looking to spread refugees out beyond the major cities.
“They’re running out of places to put them,” she said, and that’s why even small towns are being asked to share the burden.
Small cities like Twin Falls, Idaho; Fargo, North Dakota; and Spartanburg, South Carolina, have seen a war of words break out in recent months between those who want to “welcome the stranger” and those who suggest a more cautious approach.
Johnnelle Raines, a local activist in Pickens County, South Carolina, said she has immersed herself in the refugee issue over the past two months, learning all she can about it and relaying the facts to her local council members. She said they were reluctant at first but the more they read and educated themselves, they decided the program would import the problems of the Third World into an area that already has enough of its own problems.
“I know it’s a national problem, but the only thing I can do anything about is local. Trying to make sure the people in Pickens County are aware and trying to counter what I consider to be propaganda, that they’ve all been vetted and they’re all wonderful people,” Raines told WND. “Most people don’t want to delve in and learn the truth, but I am grateful that our council did.”
Raines said she believes many refugees from Muslim-dominated countries will not assimilate well into American culture.
“Muslims are using Christians as a way to infiltrate, using our good nature, our Christian values, using that against us,” she said. “And in my opinion, it’s all about money, too. Judas betrayed Jesus for money, and there is so much money involved in this program. Everyone is getting their share, and they’re betraying the people of the United States. In my opinion, it’s borderline treason. So I got involved in this pretty hot and heavy. The one place I felt I could make a difference is in my local community.”