A presentation in Bonner County on Wednesday ended earlier than planned because local opponents of refugee resettlement dominated the near capacity audience.
I suspect the citizens of Sandpoint and the surrounding rural region of Idaho had heard enough about refugee turmoil over 600 miles south in Twin Falls and didn’t see a need to bring the same trouble to their neighborhoods.
From the Bonner County Daily Bee:
SANDPOINT — A sustained lack of basic civility brought an abrupt end Wednesday to a presentation aimed at informing the public how refugee resettlement works in Idaho and the United States.
From the moment the meeting at Community Hall commenced, Nick and Laura Armstrong of Boise faced a tough room.
“I am advocating understanding,” Laura Armstrong tried to explain at one point.
A good portion of the capacity crowd, however, was having none of it.
Refugee resettlement foes groaned, scoffed, talked over, shouted and laughed derisively at the Armstrongs. When audience members who were genuinely curious about resettlement programs tried to get opponents to quiet down so the presentation could go on, they, too, were shouted down.
Nevertheless, the Armstrongs pressed ahead. They pointed out that the Bible is replete with people who were refugees, including Jesus. There are also cited repeated passages referring to God’s faithfulness and concern for “aliens” and “strangers.” [The usual use of the Bible to suit their purposes!—ed]
Many of the foes of refugee resettlement viewed the presentation as a foot in the door to bring displaced people into Bonner County.
“We don’t want ‘em!” a woman shouted angrily.
The Armstrongs and the meeting’s hosts — the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force and a group called “follow ~ a community” — emphasized that there was no plan to bring refugees here, but opponents were dubious of those declarations.
The Armstrongs and the meeting’s hosts attempted to conduct a question-and-answer session on resettlement after the presentation, but only made it several questions in when it became clear productive discussion remained elusive.
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This post is also filed in a category I call ‘Pockets of Resistance,’ a phrase I first heard in 2013 when an Office of Refugee Resettlement spokesman referred to communities where citizens were questioning refugee resettlement as ‘pockets of resistance,’ explained here.