TWIN FALLS • Community members are rallying in support of the College of Southern Idaho’s Refugee Center in response to controversy brewing from an April announcement that 300 refugees, including some from Syria, will be soon moving to Twin Falls.
Although college officials say the federal government does extensive background checks on refugees, including those who will arrive in Twin Falls starting in October, some locals have raised concerns that new refugees may be radical Islamists.
Group organizer Deborah Silver — a Twin Falls accountant who ran for state treasurer in 2014 as a Democrat against incumbent Ron Crane — has followed the Refugee Center’s work for years. But now she’s taking action.
“It seems like the right time to put something together to show all of the support there is out there,” she said Monday.
Her eight-member group aims to inform the community about refugees and the resettlement process. The second meeting will be Tuesday.
“I kind of see this as community outreach,” Silver said.
Two members of the group are refugees or have family members who were resettled here.
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CSI Refugee Center Director Zeze Rwasama said Monday he wasn’t aware of the group and hasn’t talked with Silver about it. He has talked with many people in recent months about the center’s operations, he said, and is always willing to provide information.
Six people expressed concerns at a May 18 CSI board meeting about incoming Syrian refugees. Rick Martin asked for a future agenda item to consider phasing out the Refugee Center program within six months.
It’s causing a black eye for the college, he said, and there’s not enough money to support it.
Four Magic Valley legislators also sent written opinions to CSI about the program. The college didn’t request the opinions, but has received positive feedback, CSI President Jeff Fox told the Times-News last month.
The federal government decides who will come to Twin Falls. And CSI officials don’t know the religious background of incoming refugees.
Since 1984, about 5,000 people have been resettled in the Magic Valley. Most are from Iraq and Iran.