In light of the action taken Friday by President Trump, Soft Landing Missoula is recommitting to our vision—to help Missoula be a welcoming, supportive and informed community that can assist refugees to integrate and thrive.
We strongly disagree with the President’s executive order cutting off the flow of properly screened refugees to the United States. Among the provisions: All refugee admissions are suspended for at least 120 days and until it’s determined whether more security measures are needed. Syrian refugees are barred until the President decides the program “aligns with the national interest.” Total admissions for FY 2017 are capped at 50,000 (of which, 31,000 have already come in). All seeking visas will be subject to “extreme vetting,” or ideological testing. Religious minorities in their home countries who are being persecuted (mostly Christian) will get expedited visas.
This decision cuts off a safe haven for those fleeing war and violence, whose plight has been caused by those who mean us harm. The president’s orders deprive them of the opportunity to renew their lives in safety, and deprive our communities and our nation the opportunity to benefit from the hard work, ingenuity and determination that so many refugees have demonstrated time and again. And preferring refugees on the basis of their religion violates our constitutional principles that the government may neither favor nor discriminate against particular religions.
Welcoming refugees is about kindness, compassion and generosity. Many now in our community have had the special and amazing privilege of helping new refugee families experience safety and freedom. We have witnessed kids climb into a new soft bed that is just for them, the wonder of sharing song and dance with other cultures, the squeal of joy that comes from the gift of something as simple as a muffin tin, and the relief and pride on parents’ faces as they watch their children go safely off to their new school. These are moments that can’t be banned by any executive order.
We are busy teaching and mentoring the 50-plus individuals who have arrived here and are beginning to make Missoula their home. With our community’s help, refugees are learning English and computer skills and how to drive. They are being tutored in schools, learning how to get around the city, earning money, and engaging in our social fabric.
We will work just as hard and in cooperation with the IRC, the resettlement agency in Missoula, to resettle all refugees who are allowed to come here. And we know that this city and residents across the state are solidly behind us, from the hundreds of volunteers who help run our programs to the thousands of people who have expressed their support in writing and with their financial support.
We grow strong together. This week, we will begin to distribute the furniture and household possessions of a man who came here from the Middle East decades ago, became a solid member of this community and whose family, in gratitude to the blessings endowed on him by this country and this city, are donating these goods in his memory to refugees to help them in turn gain a foothold and prosper.
Whether you belong to a faith or not, the ethical teachings of Ecclesiasticus (200 BCE) should resonate:
“My child, do not cheat the poor of their living, and do not keep needy eyes waiting. Do not aggrieve the hungry, or anger one in need. Do not add to the troubles of the desperate, or delay giving to the needy. Do not reject a supplicant in distress, or turn your eyes away from the poor.”
The President’s executive order is an assault on a bedrock American principle: as a nation of immigrants, we are called to extend the hand of friendship to the oppressed, tend to the suffering caused by their plight, and weave them into a national fabric that has always grown stronger through diversity. It is our heritage, and it is also the right thing to do.
Soft Landing Missoula board of directors: Clem Work, Marja Unkuri-Chaudhry, Patrick Duffy, Alysha Janotta, David Scott and Peter McDonough; Executive Director Mary Poole and Program Director Molly Cottrell