- Harrison Berry
- A group gathered at the Idaho State Capitol in support of refugees in summer 2015
Days after attacks in Paris left 129 people dead, Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has written a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to place the country's refugee resettlement programs on hold—for now.
"Instead of Congress rubber-stamping this program each year, we ask that you and Congress work with states and governors to thoroughly review this progress and how states are affected," Otter wrote in the letter.
Otter's missive also alludes to concerns among some Idahoans that refugee resettlement centers, like the College of Southern Idaho Refugee Center in Twin Falls, do not adequately screen refugees and may be an open door for terrorists seeking to enter the United States under false pretenses.
"Frustration with the federal immigration and refugee programs runs high in Idaho," the letter reads.
The College of Southern Idaho's Refugee Center is the subject of two separate referenda currently gaining signatures in Twin Falls County ahead of elections in May. The referenda would permanently close such resettlement centers in Twin Falls County and ban opening future ones. Proponents of the measures say an influx of refugees, particularly from war-torn regions like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, would raise concerns for safety in their community.
Detractors, including a Twin Falls prosecutor charged with vetting the measures, say attempts to close the refugee center are legally impracticable at best, and thinly veiled xenophobia at worst.
In Boise, refugees have become a hot topic. Ahead of the Nov. 3 elections, mayoral candidate Judy Peavey-Derr told a meeting of the League of Women Voters refugees were taking jobs and soaking up social benefits that should otherwise go to Boise's homeless population. She later doubled—and tripled—down on her statements, at one point saying the city's South End neighborhood was "getting blighted by a lot of refugees." Peavey-Derr later lost in a landslide to incumbent Mayor Dave Bieter.
In his letter, Otter urged the Obama to place the keys to refugee resettlement in states' hands.
"It is my desire, and should be your goal, to reassure the people of Idaho that their views are respected and that consideration is given to enabling states to opt out of the refugee resettlement program," he wrote.