TWIN FALLS • The College of Southern Idaho’s refugee program needs to end, a committee says, and members are mobilizing to reach out to voters.
About 40 people attended a public meeting Monday night organized by the Committee to End the CSI Refugee Center.
In April CSI said its center could resettle 300 refugees this year in Twin Falls – possibly, some from Syria. Since then, some community members have expressed concerns about an influx of radical Muslims. Others have rallied around the center.
Committee leader Rick Martin said he’s not against refugees, but the refugee program is broken and “is being used to destroy our community.”
“Individuals should support refugees, but not taxpayers as a whole,” he said.
The committee is circulating a petition to get a measure on ballots by May to send a message to CSI that voters want the program ended, Martin said.
Three CSI board members are also up for reelection in November 2016 and the committee is trying to recruit candidates who would phase out the Refugee Center if elected.
CSI trustees weren’t in attendance and several speakers at the meeting said they were frustrated by that.
Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, told the crowd he describes himself as a “conservative.”
“I’ve read an awful lot of literature on this,” he said of the Refugee Center. He said he visited last week with CSI President Jeff Fox.
“I think the Refugee Center in the past has probably done an awful lot of good,” Nielsen said, but he questions whether refugees are taking away jobs.
His question: Why this year are they doing the “Muslim thing? That’s the mystery to me.”
The federal government decides who will be resettled in Twin Falls. CSI hasn’t received confirmation of who will come starting Oct. 1.
The Refugee Center has resettled about 5,000 refugees since the early 1980s, but none from Syria.
“There’s no way to have a peaceful existence with Sharia law and the U.S. constitution,” Nielsen said. “There’s no way they can co-exist.”
There’s also no way of properly vetting Syrian refugees for security checks, he said.
Committee to End the CSI Refugee Center members passed out materials at the meeting and displayed information on poster boards.
They cite concerns such as community security, health, finances and the impact to American jobs.