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Anti-Refugee Speeches At Idaho Capitol Draw Supporters And Protesters

Adam Cotterell
Boise State Public Radio
Kristin Ruether (second from left) says she volunteers with a refugee resetlement agency. She describes it as "an incredibly great experience."

Nearly 200 people at the Idaho Capitol Thursday night listened to speeches from an anti-Islamic preacher and a member of a right-wing, national security advocacy group. The topic was refugee resettlement.

Before the speeches, about 100 people lined the marble hallway to the Capitol’s largest public meeting room. They held signs reading things like “Idaho is too great for hate.” Kristin Ruether’s sign said, “refugees welcome” in English and Arabic.

“And I’m just here to support our refugee resettlement program here in Idaho,” Ruether said. “It’s one of the things that I like most about Idaho.”

In the auditorium, people heard the message that refugees, particularly Muslims, pose a serious threat to the U.S. Spokane pastor Shahram Hadian said welcoming refugees is a “righteous” thing to do, but that our system for vetting them can’t keep terrorists out. 

“Congress must take action to defend the security of the American people,” Hadian said. “I don’t think they’re going to do it. It’s going to be up to the state legislators and up to the local officials…and to the citizens.”

Hadian, a former Muslim, ended his speech with an explanation of why he thinks Islam is incompatible with American culture.

Credit Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio
Boise State Public Radio
Hadian gave his speech flanked by two large men. Several law enforcement officers were also present.

Afterwards, Vanessa Yohn of Owyhee County said she agrees with everything she heard.

“I’m very concerned about refugees coming to Boise, and that we could have terrorist factions coming in through the refugee program,” Yohn said.

The U.S. government says refugees undergo more rigorous screening than anyone else entering the county. But the speakers contend the federal government has been corrupted by Islamist groups.

The presentation was meant for lawmakers. But only about 20 of the people who listened were members of the legislature. The lawmakers included both supporters and critics of the message. Others said they were just there for information. That included Representative Ken Andrus (R-Lava Hot Springs.) Andrus does have concerns about the refugees in Idaho.

“I’m not ready myself to go to my colleagues in the legislature and say, ‘let’s stop this resettlement movement,’” Andrus said. “I still want more information. I’m not an advocate for doing that at the present time.”

A pro-refugee presentation that was initially scheduled for last night was postponed earlier in the week, so lawmakers could attend both events. It has not yet been rescheduled. 

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

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