April: Zeze Rwasama, director of the College of Southern Idaho Refugee Center, tells the college’s board that the center will likely receive 300 refugees during the federal fiscal year starting Oct. 1. He expects the biggest populations of newcomers to be from Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

April: The next morning, readers begin posting anti-refugee comments on Magicvalley.com’s news story. The Refugee Center receives phone calls, and letters to the editor pour in to the Times-News.

May-June: Spurred by constituent inquiries, at least four Magic Valley legislators write to CSI about its Refugee Center, asking for information.

June: Deborah Silver — a Twin Falls accountant who ran for state treasurer in 2014 — starts a group to support the Refugee Center.

June: The U.S. House’s Homeland Security committee voices concerns about incoming Syrian refugees, saying security checks are inadequate.

June: Conservative activist Rick Martin forms “The Committee to End the CSI Refugee Center.” This month, it has about 100 members in a closed Facebook group.

June: CSI’s Refugee Center holds its sixth annual Magic Valley Refugee Days with food and performances. Despite fears of protests, the event is peaceful. CSI security officers monitor the event, and yellow caution tape surrounds the area.

July: A federal trial starts for Fazliddin Kurbanov, a refugee from Uzbekistan living in Boise, accused of instructing people how to create bombs to target transportation systems and other public places.

July: For a third month, community members show up in droves to CSI’s board meeting to express opinions about the Refugee Center. The board sets a time cap of 30 minutes for the public forum due to a “tremendous amount of new business,” chairman Karl Kleinkopf says.

July: Iranian-American pastor Shahram Hadian — who preaches against what he calls the threat of Islam — gives two public talks at Baptist churches in Filer and Twin Falls.

August: Some Idaho residents receive recorded phone messages from the American Freedom Party, a white supremacist group, calling for support of their 2016 presidential candidate. The message also expresses anger over “thousands of Muslim refugees headed to Idaho,” the Associated Press reports.

August: A jury convicts Kurbanov of three terrorism-related charges.

August: At CSI’s board meeting, Kleinkopf speaks about what he calls misinformation about the refugee program. The college doesn’t know or track the religions of resettled refugees, he says.

August: A statewide poll by Dan Jones and Associates shows only 20 percent of Idahoans surveyed had heard of CSI’s Refugee Center, but the majority of those who had wanted the college to keep it.

August: The Refugee Center undergoes a regular yearly audit by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, a nongovernmental organization. Auditors take the opportunity to speak to Silver’s group, Magic Valley Refugee Advocates.

August-September: About 10 members of the Islamic Center of Twin Falls — and their non-Muslim neighbors — receive letters mailed without return addresses containing passages from the Quran and Bible. A center spokesman calls the letters harassment.

September: Refugee Center opponents file a revised version of a ballot initiative to ban refugee centers in Twin Falls County; County Prosecutor Grant Loebs said the first version was likely unconstitutional. The petition proposes it be a misdemeanor for county commissioners to try to repeal the measure for a year after its enactment.

September: About 725 people attend the Times-News’ community forum about refugee resettlement. A panel speaks, including local leaders and refugee officials from the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Refugee supporters and opponents turn out in large numbers. Opponents pass out materials to attendees.

September: Unfazed by the controversy, students at Lighthouse Christian School in Twin Falls launch their fifth annual project to “adopt” local refugee families. They’ll clean refugees’ homes and provide donated items during a service day in October.

September: Boise mayor Dave Bieter and other groups express frustration about a decision by owners of a Boise apartment complex — with 400 residents, mostly refugees — to evict tenants. The owners plan to renovate apartments and raise the rent.

September: An Idaho Politics Weekly poll shows 47 percent of those polled oppose taking in Syrian refugees, 46 percent support it and 7 percent are undecided.

October: Supporters of a ballot measure to ban refugee centers in Twin Falls County start to gather signatures at the U.S. Post Office downtown. The Twin Falls County Clerk’s office approves the form of the petition. Supporters will have until early April to gather the 3,842 signatures needed.

October: The III Percent of Idaho holds a march in Twin Falls to call for an end to the refugee program.

November: State Rep. Heather Scott calls for a special legislative session to address refugee resettlement.

November: The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints writes a letter urging church members to help refugees.

November: Magic Valley legislators visit Lincoln Elementary School’s Newcomer Center for refugee students during a legislative preview event, held by the Twin Falls School District. Rep. Stephen Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, asks refugee students their response to recent controversy. “There’s some problems going on right now, but I still feel welcome here,” high school senior Safia Ali responds.

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November: Following terrorist attacks in Paris, Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter calls on the president to halt refugee resettlement until the vetting process and state concerns are addressed. He’s among 23 governors taking steps in response to the attacks.

November: The CSI board and administrators say they support Otter’s call for a federal review of the refugee vetting process.

November: The U.S. House of Representatives passes a measure 289-137 for stricter requirements for refugees from Syria and Iraq before they’re allowed to enter the U.S.

November: About 1,000 people attend a refugee rally at the Idaho Capitol in Boise — police officers estimate about 700 supporters and 300 opponents.

November: Motivated by the controversy, CSI’s Diversity Council organizes a Thanksgiving meal for several dozen newly arrived refugees — most from Africa.

December: Calls for better security checks for newcomers to the U.S. intensify following a shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, open fire at a holiday party, killing 14 people. Farook was born in the U.S., and Malik came to the U.S. using a spousal visa.

December: Neighboring Utah announces plans to launch a refugee monitoring system, led by two police agents who would help refugees assimilate and watch for signs of radicalization.

December: Diana Whiting and friend Andrea Rule launch a Sun Valley-Twin Falls pipeline, prompting volunteers from the Wood River Valley’s Light on the Mountains Spiritual Center to take several carloads of winter coats, gloves, boots and blankets to the CSI Refugee Center.

December: Evangelical leaders — from the Southern Baptist Convention, Assemblies of God, World Relief and others — urge Christians to welcome Syrian refugees. The group’s statement: “Christian Declaration on Caring for Refugees: An Evangelical Response.”

December: An Idaho Politics Weekly poll shows 60 percent of Idahoans are against taking in refugees from Syria. About 36 percent favor taking in Syrian refugees, and 3 percent don’t know.

December: Magic Valley legislators say refugee resettlement likely will be debated during the 2016 session. But many doubt the state has the authority to pass anything meaningful.

—Julie Wootton


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