I’m pissed. I’m confused. I’m sad. I know that you guys usually get a sunny message from me to “hold firm” to “celebrate the beauty”, but right now I am just plain fired up and I need you all to know why. The US travel ban for select countries that has been in and out and back in again since 2017, just got expanded. Immigrants from Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Eritrea, and Nigeria, as well as diversity visas from Sudan and Tanzania have now been added to the original 2018 ban of people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, and North Korea.
So, I know these things are nuanced. I know they are not black and white. While I honestly don’t feel like I have near the expertise to understand the minutiae of all of the countries on this ban, and there is so much to know, I do feel solidly able to speak to the addition of Eritreans to this list, as well as the standing ban on Syrians. I am not an expert, but the last 4.5 years of my life has been spent learning the best I can about what is going on in these countries and with new friends in my life that I have come to love, admire, cherish, and trust.
So, the ban. The excuse for the original and extended ban is our safety. It is said that the reason for the ban is that these countries can’t or won’t provide the US with the appropriate standard of information on its citizens coming to the US (ie: in the case of Eritrea and Syria- it’s citizens that are trying to flee). Well, no crap.
Why would they? Why would the Eritrean government, one that is creating over 5,000 refugees a MONTH (so so many of whom are children), one that is brutally imprisoning and torturing its own people in secret underground prisons, one that uses indefinite forced military conscription of men and women to create what amounts to slave labor for those at the top- why on earth would THIS government have any motivation to comply with US standards of reporting so that those who have fled can seek safety? Let’s look at Syria- from the original travel ban. Why would a regime that is CURRENTLY still holding millions of its own people under siege, to the tune of hundreds of civilians (yes- civilian men, women, and CHILDREN) still being killed each month, care about complying with the US? Just because their governments are failing them, why do these families deserve our protection any less? Shouldn’t these situations warrant EXTRA assistance and hospitality to the survivors of this horror?
But here is the kicker. Does not allowing entry of a tiny portion of highly screened refugees (less than 1% of refugees end up being resettled in the US), even those from countries that don’t give us the exact level of information we ask for, make us any less safe? The answer is a resounding “no”. The US system for screening refugees is strong. It is safe. To the point of ridiculous. When the screening is already so thorough that it takes multiple years and you have over 3.5 million refugees that have come to the US in the past 4 decades and not one person has been killed in a terrorist attack on US soil due to a refugee, it’s a dang tight system. Let’s give ourselves a little bit of credit. Why are we pretending we are weak? We already do a great job of providing safety to refugees and to the US at the same time- without these travel bans.
I know I am venting (ie: ranting) and I am “sorry, not sorry”. But the truth is, this ban is a continued smear campaign on refugees and immigrants, further impacts a dismally low number of refugee arrivals, and most tragically, it keeps families apart. Families that are now Missoulians. Families that are our own. I keep going back to the saying, “There is no such thing as someone else’s child”. We have to stand up for each other.
It may feel like there is not a lot we can do to change things, but we can pledge to keep fighting, to keep pushing. We will not be caught hopeless and helpless and we are asking you to join us in strength. Soft Landing has a lot of events coming up and at each event, we will provide post cards you can write in support of refugees and robust resettlement numbers. We will provide info on who you can be calling. We will bear witness to films documenting the tragedy of countries at war, yet the strength and resilience of their people. We will sell you delicious cookies that will excite your Valentine AND put essential income into the pockets of refugee chefs. We will partake in the grand opening of an incredible all-ages art center (the new ZACC) by helping refugees share their own art in a public space. We ask you to stand up and be counted as an ally to refugees and immigrants by joining us for these events, then using those experiences to not only talk to your elected leaders, but also your friends and your family (extended included). Let’s not let our frustration paralyze us, but encourage us to do more to lift up our voices in support of refugee families.
In love and gratitude,
ED Soft Landing Missoula
P.S.- There is SOOOOO much going on in February! You can check out the info below and/or keep an eye at our on-line calendar to participate.
Valentine’s Day Cookie Box Sale
It’s here! Ordering starts NOW and only goes through the end of the week (Sunday Feb 9th)! Decadent Baklava and 6 other types of amazing cookies to tempt your Valentine- or to enjoy yourself! Profits go directly to the local refugee chefs who hand-make these treats and provide critical support for these families to get established in the community.
SLM is Hiring!
We are incredibly excited to announce a new position with Soft Landing’s food based programming- United We Eat. We are looking for a Program Manager experienced in business and/or non-profit management with a passion for food and it’s intersection with social justice. This will be a dynamic and creative position – not to mention, a lot of FUN!
Events and Opportunities
>> Community Day for Soft Landing at The Notorious P.I.G.- TOMORROW Feb 4th. Join us for lunch, dinner, or anything in between and SLM gets 15% of the day’s proceeds. More info on theFB event. >>
>> SLM teams up with the ZACC for February’s First Friday Art Walk and their Grand Re-opening this Friday Feb. 7th. Come see the new space and enjoy art by our Congolese neighbors. More info here. >>
>> YES! It’s almost here! The Big Sky Documentary Film Fest, running Feb 14th-23rd, is one of our favorite events all year and we are sponsoring 4 films this year! Come check it out and maybe we will see you at one of our 7 screenings during this week! Check out our schedule and more info here. >>
>> Dinner for the Displaced. Hands On Global, a Helena nonprofit, is hosting and informational and fundraising dinner for their work providing medical relief in refugee camps around the world as well as at our southern border. This is a really amazing group. Come support their incredibly important work with us on Saturday Feb 22 at 6p at St. Paul Lutheran Church. More info here. >>