TWIN FALLS — The public comment at Monday’s City Council meeting was again dominated by concerns over refugee resettlement, with one speaker accusing council members of failing to keep their oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and another demanding all their resignations.
Monday’s meeting was the fourth in a row where the assault, and Islam and refugee resettlement in general, were pretty much the only topics of public comment.
Lance Earl, a political activist from the Pocatello area who recently started a Magic Valley chapter of his pro-gun rights and gun training group AmendTwo, questioned the Council’s dedication to the U.S. Constitution.
“What part of the Constitution allows you to allow the federal government to import people into the state, into this city?” asked “There is none.”
Earl said the Constitution does not give the federal government the power to regulate immigration into the states. He also asked the Council why they had not demanded the resignation of police Chief Craig Kingsbury, whose department had been working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to look in to threats received by some city officials over the case of a 5-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted at the Fawnbrook Apartments on June 2 by three boys from Sudanese and Iraqi families.
The Constitution, Earl said, does not give the federal government policing powers within the states.
“If he is going to violate the Constitution of the United States, he is an empty uniform and he should not be here,” Earl said.
A movement to shut down the refugee resettlement program in Twin Falls, which is overseen by the federal government and administered locally through the College of Southern Idaho, started last year, and the issue has come again to dominate public comment at City Council meetings since news of the assault came out last month. The two older boys involved, aged 10 and 14, are facing charges in juvenile court.
Mayor Shawn Barigar imposed a five-minute time limit on speakers, with a timer to keep track. While the Council has limited people’s speaking time at hearings before, it doesn’t do so as a general practice, or at least hasn’t until now.
Barigar said, in response to a question from Terry Edwards, who called on the Council to step down, that he would add the time limit to future Council agendas. While most of the Council members, as is usual during public comment, didn’t interact with the speakers, there were some flashes of tension, with people speaking over their allotted time and Barigar and the speakers talking over each other at points.
Edwards said he would continue to call for their resignations.
“You need to stand up and resign your position if you cannot justify your oath to office,” Edwards said.
Julie Ruf, who like Edwards has spoken against refugee resettlement at previous meetings, invited Council members to attend a talk Brigitte Gabriel, the founder of Act for America, is giving in Twin Falls on Aug. 4.
“I would encourage you, as leaders of this community, to listen to the other side, respectfully if you’re able,” she said.
Shane Brown spoke in favor of refugee resettlement and praised the City Council’s handling of things. He condemned people from outside of town who he accused of stirring the pot and using what happened to the girl at Fawnbrook to advance their political agenda.
“These people have brought fear and anger and ignorance,” he said.
Brown said he was a longtime long gun owner, but was driven to buy a pistol recently due to threats people he knows have received over the Fawnbrook case.
“I do not like living in fear,” he said. “I do not like feeling that I need to own a handgun.”