A federal official who helps oversee refugee resettlement in the U.S. says despite an effort to do away with a program in Twin Falls, he still thinks the city is a viable option for refugees.
Larry Bartlett made stops in Boise and Twin Falls this week. He oversees the State Department’s Refugee Admissions program in Washington D.C. He appeared at a forum in Twin Falls Tuesday evening. Some residents there are upset with the College of Southern Idaho’s refugee program out of fear it could bring dangerous refugees from places like Syria. A petition drive is underway to put on the ballot a measure that, if approved, would ban refugee programs in the county.
But Bartlett feels those pushing the measure are a vocal minority, and that Twin Falls remains a place where refugees are welcome.
“As long as we have that positive base, we can continue to do resettlement in a place like Twin Falls.”
In Idaho, Boise and Twin Falls are the only two cities where refugees get resettled. Bartlett says as the U.S. increases the number of refugees it accepts to 100,000 by 2017, Pocatello could also be in the mix. He says it’s too soon to estimate how many refugees could resettle in Idaho as part of the expanded national program.
Bartlett says he was asked to attend Tuesday’s forum, hosted by the Twin Falls Times-News, by Idaho’s Republican Congressional delegation. He met with concerned citizens in Spartanburg, South Carolina last month.
“[It] makes us understand that it’s complicated conversation and it’s important to have that conversation out in the open,” Bartlett says. “Often times, we find that there’s just a lack of information about how this program really works. And it’s important to make sure that we’re conveying that information and listening to the reply.”
Bartlett says when met with questions over security, he tries to offer assurances that the vetting process is lengthy and thorough.
“Refugees are the victims of terrorists, they’re not terrorists,” he says. “These are the people who fled ISIS. These are the people who fled Al Qaida. So they have voted with their feet. They are not part of that association. We make sure that that’s not the case.”
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