(MTN News-MISSOULA) The Syrian refugee crisis has received national attention, and the dispute over whether or not to allow refugees into the United States took center stage in Western Montana on Monday.
One group held a rally in front of the Missoula County Courthouse to protest the possibility of allowing refugees into Montana, while another group is trying to make it easier for refugees to resettle here.
Jim Buterbaugh of Whitehall has been organizing rallies all over the state concerning the Syrian refugee crisis. Protesters in Missoula voiced their objections to the possibility of Missoula becoming a new home for refugees fleeing the Syrian Civil War, some going as far as calling them terrorists.
While at least one protester carried a sign saying “No Muslim refugees in Montana,” Buterbaugh says his concern isn’t about race or religion, but the potential security threat he believes the refugees pose.
“The whole idea behind this rally is to get people involved and make our government stand up for what the people are for, and protect the people as they have sworn to, to keep the people safe,” Buterbaugh said.
Buterbaugh says he will continue to hold rallies across the state.
Another local organization called “Soft Landing Missoula” is attempting to re-open local resettlement agencies, which would allow a smoother transition for potential settlers. The group also said in September that they were discussing the possibility of bringing ten Syrian refugee families to Missoula.
Mary Poole says Missoula has a successful track record for housing refugees dating back to the 1980’s.
“Because Montana hasn’t resettled refugees in a few years there, we’re kinda rebooting some of the infrastructure that was here,” Poole said. “And so we are working with a lot of community members and a lot of groups to make sure that infrastructure is sufficient and people are prepared for when refugees come.”
Poole says Soft Landing Missoula chose not to counter-rally Monday, saying they have already received great support from the Missoula community regarding this issue.
In 2015, the United States accepted 70,000 refugees, 3% of which were from from Syria.