Civic leaders in Idaho's two largest refugee communities voiced concern about President Donald Trump's executive order temporarily banning travelers from seven countries, even as some lawmakers are expressing cautious support.
"People are fearful and anxious and don't know what to expect — they feel they have been pointed out for discriminatory treatment," said Jan Reeves, director of the Idaho Office for Refugees, a private organization that works with the federal government to coordinate resettlement efforts in the Boise region. "And I think they have every reason to fear: There's a mood in the country that has been escalating and detrimental to their well-being."
The executive order signed Friday prompted protests across the country, including about 600 people who gathered at the Boise airport Sunday. Boise is not an international airport, but refugees sometimes arrive there en route to Twin Falls, Boise or other resettlement areas.
Reeves said there weren't any refugees headed to Idaho when the executive order went into effect, so none were detained. Still, he said some Boise residents are now in limbo, forced to cancel travel plans and left wondering when family members who had been traveling overseas will be able to return home.
"It has a very real and harmful effect on many people, who are simply trying to find safety and security and start their lives again," Reeves said.
Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo announced his support of Trump’s executive order in a statement released on Friday.
"During town meetings I held across my state, Idahoans affirmed that we must take steps to secure our borders and I agree,” Crapo’s statement read. “We will need to constantly refine and improve our vetting process."
Idaho U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, a Republican, has also voiced support for the temporary travel ban, saying it is necessary for national security and public safety. But he took issue with the way the policy was enacted.
"I urge the Administration to revisit the order's applicability to legal permanent residents of the United States, and exercise great care before taking future action," he said. "Inadequate review and poor implementation of this executive action threatens to undermine otherwise sound policy."
Twin Falls Mayor Shawn Barigar said the executive order was disappointing but not unexpected. He reached out to the local refugee center at the College of Southern Idaho on Monday morning. They aren't expecting any refugees in the near future, but will continue to serve the ones already in Twin Falls.
"I appreciate the need to have comfort that the security measures are in place to ensure safety," Barigar said. "I have confidence in the vetting process. These are people facing atrocities that none of us can imagine, and we're really trying to help these people who are victims in their own countries find safety and security for themselves."
Twin Falls has been the subject of widespread attention since last year, when some anti-immigration groups falsely reported online that a group of Syrian boys had gang-raped a little girl at knifepoint.
The case is still progressing through the closed juvenile court system, but prosecutors and city officials have said that the boys were of Middle Eastern descent but not Syrian, that no knife was used and that the incident, while highly inappropriate, was not a gang rape.
Still, the false rumors were widely disseminated, and soon the city found itself at the center of a national debate over refugee resettlement. City leaders became a target for those angry about immigration policies.
At the height of the vitriol — when Barigar and his wife faced death threats and local refugees felt like they were in danger — an event was held celebrating a newly rebuilt baseball field at the nearby Minidoka Internment Camp Historic site.
Japanese families had turned to baseball to help pass the time at the camp when they were forced there during WWII. And a community group had just finished restoring the field.
Barigar said he's been thinking about the camp and the new field a lot this weekend.
"As Americans, we have a terrible habit of not learning from history," he said. "This was just six or seven months ago, and here we are again having that same conversation, forgetting that we've been through the time when our national policy was, 'They're different, lock them up.'"
Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter told the Idaho Statesman that he supports the executive order, saying it's "consistent with my stated desire for improved vetting of refugees entering the United States."
In Utah, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement Saturday night saying it's concerned for people fleeing violence, war and religious persecution. It urged "all people and governments to cooperate fully in seeking the best solutions to meet human needs and relieve suffering."
It echoed a statement the faith issued in December 2015 when Trump floated the idea of a ban on Muslim immigration.
The church's statement came a day after Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, questioned how much the president's actions could combat terrorism and whether he was targeting the right people.
"My concern is that terrorists are not all from Syria and there's many ways to get into our country," Herbert said. The Republican governor said it takes about two years for refugees to enter the country, and "all of them ought to be monitored."