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Idahoans Gather at Capitol in Support of Refugees

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Hundreds of people gathered at the Idaho Statehouse Sept. 12 to show their support for refugees, posing for a group photo that illustrates why Idaho is one of the top-five most welcoming states for refugees in the country, according to the Washington Post.

Josh Wiese, who organized the event at the Capitol, told Boise Weekly a combination of local and international events led to the gathering. As the migrant crisis deepens in Europe, a ballot initiative in Twin Falls County aims to ban refugee centers and the community responds to a devastating fire at the Boise International Market, awareness of refugee and immigrant issues in Boise has been on the rise. 

"We were going to do this before [Boise International Market] burned down; we knew then that this was the right time," he said.

In remarks delivered before the group photo, Wiese implored the community to "befriend" refugees, sign a petition to affirm Idaho as a welcoming destination for displaced people and contact elected officials to reiterate their support for bringing refugees to the Gem State. He asked those who could to join the effort to rebuild the Boise International Market. To generate buzz online, he asked supporters to use the hashtag #refugeeswelcome on Twitter and Instagram.

- Left to right: Ahmed Abdulrhaman, Melissa Rose, Larry Kandler. They came to the Idaho Capitol Saturday to show their support of refugees in Idaho. -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Left to right: Ahmed Abdulrhaman, Melissa Rose, Larry Kandler. They came to the Idaho Capitol Saturday to show their support of refugees in Idaho.
Event attendee Liz Paul, who said her children play soccer and go to school with new Americans and refugees, distributed flyers for upcoming Idaho Peace Coalition events. 

"It's important to stand up for things that matter," she said.

Elsewhere in the crowd, Nick Armstrong wore a blue "Refugees Welcome in Idaho" T-shirt while helping usher attendees onto the steps before the photo. Armstrong works with Local Community Partners, which connects volunteers and resettlement agencies. He said he has seen some resistance to accepting more refugees, but for him, that doesn't outweigh an obligation to help those in need.

"You have seen some pushback about whether we should receive refugees. [Refugees] have been through a lot of trauma and we want to be here to welcome them," he said.

Before taking the group photo, Wiese asked refugees in attendance to raise their hands. One of them, Ahmed Abdulrhaman, came to the United States in July 2009 after working as an aeronautics engineer and technician in Iraq. He became a U.S. citizen in September 2014. He now works as an automobile repairman and, with the help of friends, his knowledge of English has grown. While he said he has received a warm welcome from Idahoans, he has struggled to bring his family with him to the U.S. 

"The government there is not helpful," he said. "We need to make our voice heard so people will hear us."