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Friday, May 24
The Indiana Daily Student

Bloomington Common Council passes resolution welcoming Syrian refugees

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The Bloomington Common Council unanimously passed a resolution early Thursday morning opposing Gov. Mike Pence’s actions withholding support from Syrian refugees and welcoming refugees into the Bloomington community.

“Bloomington is a welcoming place, and historically, Indiana was once, too,” the resolution read.

The goal of the resolution is to continue to make Bloomington a welcoming place, the legislative packet said.

“We must extend Hoosier hospitality to Syrian immigrants,” Amanda Lanzillo, an IU graduate student, said.

IU-Bloomington graduate students Denisa Jashari, Julia Strzeszkowski and Lanzillo presented the resolution at the meeting.

Jashari took the microphone first. She described a history of mistreatment of refugees and cited Nazi Germany specifically.

“Our present moment requires that we think critically of our past,” Jashari said.

Lanzillo reminded the council why refugees flee and cited specific numbers for how many have fled in recent years.

More than 470,000 Syrian civilians had been killed between March 2011 and February, the resolution said.

“Syrian refugees have no option but to flee,” Lanzillo said.

As a Syrian American, Dana Khabbaz, IU junior, emphasized the human aspect of the resolution. Looking at the numbers is one thing, but focusing on the humans involved in the situation is another, she said.

“Every Syrian American has that sense of, ‘It could have been me,’” Khabbaz said.

On Nov. 16, 2015, Pence announced all state agencies should suspend the resettlement of Syrian refugees. The state later clarified, saying it will cease to make payments to resettlement agencies for the refugees.

Pence’s reasoning behind this was to “ensure the safety and security of all Hoosiers,” according to the council resolution.

On Feb. 29, the U.S. District Court ruled Pence’s actions violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. However, on March 8, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller appealed the decision because of an order by Pence.

Pence’s directive reflects dangerous rhetoric already associated with Syrians, Muslims and others, which can create a climate of fear and violence, the resolution stated.

“We must speak out against this bigotry and against the harmful, illogical actions of our state’s top leader,” Councilwoman Isabel Piedmont-Smith said in a March 17 memo.

In October 2015, a Muslim woman was attacked outside of Sofra Café in Bloomington. 

After this incident, Jashari, Lanzillo and Strzeszkowski founded the group Bloomington Against Islamophobia! to protest violence against Muslims.

The goal of the group is to make it impossible for attacks such as the one in October to happen again, Jashari said.

In January, the three decided to come to the council and help author this resolution. After the council began work, the Bloomington Human Rights Commission passed a resolution supporting the council’s efforts at its February 2016 meeting.

The City clerk will send a copy of the resolution to the governor, the leaders of the Indiana House and Senate, Bloomington representatives and the president of IU, among others.

Councilwoman Dorothy Granger said even though this is a global issue, it affects everyone at home.

“We are all connected,” Granger said. “We are all human.”

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