This statement was offered as one of many in support of refugees during the County Commissioners meeting on December 18, 2019 upon consideration of sending a letter of consent for refugee resettlement to continue in Missoula. The letter was enthusiastically signed.
Good morning. My name is Clem Work. I am a resident of Missoula County and I have been a board member of Soft Landing since its inception.
Helping Missoula be a welcoming home for refugees has been a 4-year project of love and compassion, and as long as families fleeing violence or persecution in their home countries continue to make Missoula home, there will be no shortage of loving care and compassionate neighborliness—because Missoula is that kind of place.
We are gathered here today because of an unconscionable presidential order that potentially injects partisan local politics and tremendous uncertainty into the process of refugee resettlement. But we know that whatever obstacles those of us committed to resettlement face, they pale in comparison to those our new neighbors faced and eventually overcame just to get here. And we are both humbled and inspired by the dedication and perseverance of our new neighbors that they demonstrate every single day.
• Every day, a Congolese father and husband studies in his spare time for his GED and his citizenship exams, both still a ways off. And every Sunday, he attends the church he helped found in Missoula.
• Every weekday, a Syrian mom packs her toddler and her four-year-old off to daycare, hops the bus to her job, returning in time for the kids and making dinner.
• Every day, an Eritrean girl sacks groceries and also works toward her drivers license.
• Every school day, an Iraqi boy, who is in high school, amazes his teachers with his concentration and dedication. He also has mad soccer skills.
In one sense, what they are doing every day is unremarkable—it’s what many people do. But imagine leaving everything you have, fleeing for your life, living for years in a wretched refugee camp, then trying to fashion a new life in a strange place, and what seems mundane to us is actually an act of hope—sometimes nearly superhuman hope. And the end result is strong threads in our American fabric, making us a more resilient society.
As we all know, this is nothing new in America. For centuries, immigrants have overcome cruelty, hatred and adversity to gain a foothold and to prosper, to learn, to create and to give back. We at Soft Landing and in Missoula are happy to be a part of that American project and we urge you to consent to continued refugee resettlement in Missoula County.
Thank you always Clem for your service, your guidance, and your beautiful words 😉