Our Statement on the New Executive Order

The Administration’s new executive order on refugees and visa holders from six predominantly Muslim countries, issued Monday, is a disappointing rehash of many of the same directives that had led to its being halted by the courts for a month.

The new order suspends the refugee resettlement program for 120 days after March 16, while government agencies review screening procedures. Refugees who have already been “formally scheduled for transit” by that date may still enter and the government may allow entry after that date on a case-by-case basis. Even after the resettlement program resumes (no sooner than July 15), the number of refugees for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 has been lowered from 110,000 to 50,000, meaning that no more than 10,000-12,000 more refugees could enter the U.S. before Oct. 1.

Further, all nationals of six Muslim-majority countries–Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen–except those already holding visas, may not enter the U.S. for at least 90 days after March 16, to allow for review and establishment of security standards. If any of the named countries fail to adhere to acceptable security standards, refugees from those countries will not be admitted until the standards are met. Iraq is now excluded. Visa and green-card holders from these six countries are exempt.

To reiterate our previous statement of January 27,  this decision cuts off a safe haven for those fleeing war and violence, whose plight has been caused by those who mean us harm. This order deprives refugees of the opportunity to renew their lives in safety, and deprives 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. Stopping the refugee resettlement program could even mean life or death for some of the 60,000 refugees who have already been vetted and are awaiting resettlement. Once their medical and security checks are completed, they only have a two-month window to travel. Refugees may be forced to start the entire screening process from scratch–delaying them by months or even years while their lives continue to be in danger.  There is also little to no data to suggest that a suspension of the refugee program would make Americans any safer. Indeed, many national security experts believe it could make us less safe by bolstering the “us vs. them” thinking that helps ISIS and other terrorist groups to recruit.

Meanwhile, we have plenty of work to do right here in Missoula. On Wednesday, we present the third in our series of “Soft Landing Missoula Presents,” this time on Eritrea, the country from which seven of our families have had to flee. The forum starts at 6 p.m. in the UC Theater. Our English classes and Drivers Ed training are in full swing and we are engaging over 200 volunteers to work with families, teach our classes and help us with other projects. We continue to be invited around the city and state to present information and help answer questions about refugee resettlement, and are currently designing a training that will give participants the skills to speak to this and other sensitive topics in a thoughtful and kind way to help build bridges across the many divides. We have a couple of incredible film and photo projects that will be coming your way soon. The warmer weather is getting us excited to start our bike program back up with our community partners. And we’re talking about throwing a huge soccer tournament!

With the love and support of this extraordinary community, we will continue to support the IRC and most of all our new neighbors who have come here seeking safety and opportunity for their families. With the help of all of us, they will soon stand on their own, contribute to our diverse society, and truly have a place to call home.

Cars Needed

Have you recently inherited a car that isn’t being used much? Upgraded to a new car and are too busy to sell your old one? Have a husband that likes to collect cars that end up sitting in YOUR spot in the driveway? We are looking for generous individuals that are willing to donate decent, functioning cars directly to refugees who have earned their drivers licenses.

Many of our families are accessing Soft Landing Missoula’s Drivers License Tutoring program and we have our first two graduates! We have already received one generous donation of a minivan for the first person who got his license (A huge thank you and much love goes out to this donor!), and the other graduate is now waiting in the wings, with a couple more not too far behind! This minivan has not only given transportation to this family for appointments and fun activities around town, but has also increased the types and quality of employment that will be accessible to them and provided a clearer path to self sufficiency.

If you’re interested in donating a car, please email info@softlandingmissoula.org.

Refugee Crisis: A Discussion of Global Importance

Join Soft Landing Missoula and the Montana World Affairs Council on Thursday, February 23, for a community discussion featuring Hayley Smith, founder of Lifting Hands International. She will discuss the causes of the refugee crisis, the distinctions between refugees and immigrants, and share an intimate look at life inside of a refugee camp. Register now for this important community event.

When and Where: Thursday, February 23rd at 7:00 pm at the DoubleTree Hilton Hotel

Register now.

Volunteer spotlight

We have three amazing interns from the University of Montana joining the ranks of Soft Landing Missoula this spring and winter. Jessy is a graduate student, and Natalia and Samantha are undergrads. They each bring their own set up strong skills and interests, and we could not be happier to have them. Look for them at our office and at events. They are invaluable to the work we do and we are lucky to have them.

Join us for pint night on March 1st

Wednesdays are Community UNite at the Northside Kettlehouse taproom, and March 1st is dedicated to Soft Landing Missoula. Enjoy a fresh beer on tap while supporting our organization!

Kettlehouse Brewing Company will donate $.50 from every pint sold between 5pm-8pm to Soft Landing Missoula, and we will have a table set up to answer questions.

Mark your calendar and stay tuned on the Facebook event page!

February 25th – Short films about political refugees at Big Sky Doc Festival

The 14th Annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival kicks off this Friday, February 17, and Soft Landing Missoula is proud to be sponsoring a block of short films about political refugees.

This block of five films touches on the subjects of global immigration, refugees, and asylum seekers, and screens twice during the festival: Monday, February 20 at 3 p.m. and Saturday, February 25, at 12:30 p.m. Screenings are at the Elks Lodge Theater (Stage 112) at 112 N. Pattee Street.. Admission is $9 ($7 for students and seniors). We hope you will join us next week for one of the screenings!

Here’s a trailer from The Resettled, one of the films featured.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Ruling

We at Soft Landing Missoula are encouraged by yesterday’s unanimous ruling by a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The ruling extends the freeze on President Trump’s executive order of Jan. 27 that had, among other things, banned all new refugee arrivals in the U.S. for at least four months, banned all Syrian refugees indefinitely and banned travel to the U.S. by nationals of seven predominantly Muslim countries.

The legal challenge of the President’s order is in its early stages, but the order does assure that refugees from all countries will continue to come to the United States for now–and that a fraction of those refugees will continue to come to Missoula.

The ruling also ensures a vigorous debate in the courts about whether the due process rights of refugees were violated by the order and whether the order violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments regarding religious discrimination and equal protection. 

Most importantly, however, the order underscores the importance of the rule of law in this country. The court firmly rejected the government’s argument that the Executive’s power, even in the areas of national security and immigration, is unreviewable. We remain a nation of laws.

Bottom line: We’re going to remain true to our values. With the invaluable service of the International Rescue Committee as our local resettlement agency–we will keep on welcoming refugees from around the world and helping them to integrate in our wonderful community and to thrive.

Summer camps

Summer vacation is a wonderful and fun time of year, but as working parents know, finding safe and affordable activities for your school-aged children is no easy task. We already have more than a dozen kids from our refugee families in school now, with many more expected before the end of the school year. Each family will need help finding care for their children this summer when school is out.

Do you have a connection to a summer camp or summer activity in Missoula?

Can you help us negotiate a scholarship spot at this camp or activity?

Soft Landing and the IRC will be working with each family to piece together free or reduced cost care for their kids.  If you can help, please send an email to volunteer@softlandingmissoula.org.

Take action to support refugees in Montana


We are still sifting though all of the “Action Items” we have seen come our way and have decided to focus mainly on what we can do to show support for refugees to our Montana elected officials. They need to hear from us.

They need to know that resettlement is something that we value in our community–something that is not only an important opportunity for our state to participate in the very American value of welcoming those in need, but that has also brought so much richness and vibrancy to our lives and the fabric of our city.  So we are asking 4 things of you:

  1. Please contact Senators Daines and Tester and let them know you support welcoming refugees to Missoula. Calls are best made to their local offices: Sen. Tester – (406) 728-3003 (Missoula) and Sen. Daines – (406) 549-8198 (Missoula)
  2. Stop in our office and fill out a couple of Soft Landing Missoula post cards and send them directly to these offices. We have heard that post cards may be the most effective way to get the message there…Make sure you add a “thank you” in Tester’s note for his statement.
  3. Please sign this petition that we will also be sending their way.
  4. Please voice your opposition to SB 97. Please write to members of the committee, even if they aren’t your representative, to urge them to vote NO on this bill.

Thank you Missoula!