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Far-Right Media Stokes Debate Over Twin Falls Refugee Center

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A national organization with a transparent anti-refugee stance has picked up on coverage of  twin petitions targeting the College of Southern Idaho Refugee Center

Riffing off of the Twin Falls Times-News' coverage of the petitions, Ann Corcoran of Refugee Settlement Watch, an online refugee-issues news service and community activism organization, posted "Idaho petition drives underway to shut down refugee resettlement in Twin Falls, and in the whole state." The post described the refugee center as a funnel for refugees into low-wage jobs at Chobani, "your culture, your local economy and your safety be damned!"

Corcoran's story, published Oct. 13, was quickly picked up by the much larger American Thinker, a news and essay forum. American Thinker's Carol Brown reported on two controversial ballot initiatives active in Twin Falls County to dissolve the Refugee Center, as well as the activities of Idaho III Percent, which, according to Brown, has organized a petition for Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter to eliminate refugee resettlement in Idaho.

In Idaho, however, the state has ceded responsibility for refugee resettlement to the Office of Refugee Resettlement as part of the Wilson-Fish Program—a federally funded program that works with local resettlement agencies to assist refugees with assimilation, including employment and language services. The CSI Refugee Center is one such resettlement agency, and it has come under fire from critics who allege it and other similar agencies are open doors to improperly vetted refugees who may have ties to extremist groups. 

At a recent forum on the CSI Refugee Center, several stakeholders, including Office of Refugee Admissions Director Larry Bartlett and Refugee Center Director ZeZe Rwasama, discussed the federal program working with the center, as well as the roles refugees play in southern Idaho, but Idaho III Percent Vice President Eric Parker described the event as a "dog-and-pony show" that whitewashed the center's activities and failed to adequately address community concerns with resettlement. 

"I think [forum organizers] had a plan going in: I think they were going to look at the questions, which ones they wanted to answer and which ones they didn't," Parker told The Voice of Idaho News at the time.