About 700 people turned out at the state capitol in Boise on Saturday to show their support for refugee resettlement. Since the attacks in Paris over a week ago, Governor Butch Otter and Idaho’s congressional delegation have stated their concerns over the vetting process of refugees.
Sean Michael Foster, one of the organizers, thinks the refugee backlash comes down to politics.
“We’re gearing up for an election season, so that is I think a large driver of why this is such a contentious issue right now,” Foster says. “We’ve always welcomed refugees, with the exception of a few shameful moments. We’ve got domestic events that happen all the time from people who aren’t refugees. We value our own bravery over fear.”
300 counter protesters also rallied across from the capitol. Chris McIntire is with the Three Percent of Idaho group. He cites new legislation that would suspend the refugee program until more stringent policies of vetting refugees are in place.
“We’re really pushing for House Bill 3314, which puts a halt to all refugee programs until a more systematic method of verifying identities is in place,” says McIntire. “And because of the demographic area they are coming from, it is a security risk.”
While there were some intense arguments near the end of the rally, for the most part it was a peaceful demonstration. Foster says he and McIntire plan to meet in the coming days to try and hash out their differences.