Refugee debate takes center stage in Boise

Debate continues over refugee resettlement.

BOISE -- People on both sides of the refugee resettlement debate gathered at the Idaho Statehouse Thursday night.

Supporters of refugees held a candlelight vigil on the Capitol steps.

"We welcome cultural diversity and the value it brings to making this state great," said Julianne Donnelly Tzul, executive director of the International Rescue Committee.

Inside the Lincoln Auditorium, pastor Shahram Hadian, a former Muslim who converted to Christianity, spoke to a group of more than 150 people about what he said are citizen concerns about the resettlement program.

"I'm not against refugees, but I'm against this particular program as it stands and many of the citizens I believe of this state would feel the same way," he said.

Hadian founded the Truth in Love Ministry in Washington State. 

He told the group gathered in the auditorium Thursday night that concerned Idaho legislators and citizens asked him to come speak on the topic of refugees and Islam.

He also referenced the letter Gov. Otter sent back in November asking President Obama to halt the refugee resettlement program.

Tzul told us about 1,000 refugees are resettled in Idaho each year. She says each one is thoroughly vetted.

"It is a process that involves both domestic and international law enforcement agencies comparing both biometric data and name data, so all lists of known individuals who've been involved in terrorist planning of any sort. It's lengthy. It takes up to two years," she said.

But Hadian raised concerns about the vetting process during his talk.

"We know specifically of testimony from the head of the FBI, from Homeland Security, from counter-terrorism experts that when it comes to refugees, number one Syrian refugees, Iraqi refugees, Somali refugees, North African refugees, we have a major problem and that is there is not a mechanism in place to vet them," said Hadian.

The presentation inside the auditorium also featured speaker Christopher Holton, who is the vice president of the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C.

"We're seeing a revolutionary jihadist climate starting to develop here in this country," he told the crowd.

In all, the discussion lasted about an hour and about a dozen Idaho lawmakers showed up. Hadian urged attendees to continue a dialogue.

"Again, there is a place for compassion, but there's also a place for wisdom and understanding that there's a risk and a danger that we face," said Hadian.

Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, told us she thought the presentation was informative.

"Two of my counties in my district have passed resolutions against this and my sheriff has passed a resolution against this," said Scott.

She expects refugee resettlement will come up during the legislative session.

"And hopefully the citizens get involved and talk to their legislators about where they're coming from because we need all sides of every story," she added.

Pastor Hadian is no stranger to the Idaho Statehouse. He spoke to a group of lawmakers about "The True Face of Islam in Idaho" at a luncheon last year.

Later, an Idaho House panel voted 9-8 to kill legislation to bring the state into compliance with federal child support collection rules after some lawmakers said they were concerned about Sharia law influencing Idaho's enforcement authority.

The federally mandated child support rules were eventually approved by the Idaho Legislature during a special session called by Otter.


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