Indiana Daily Student

Syrian refugee discussion packs room at MCPL

Media School Professor of Practice, Elaine Monaghan talks with residence at the refugee support network meeting on Thursday evening.
Media School Professor of Practice, Elaine Monaghan talks with residence at the refugee support network meeting on Thursday evening.

Around 100 people crowded into a large meeting room at the Monroe County Public Library. They filled the available chairs, sat on the floor and stood against the wall.

“It’s a little more crowded than expected,” said Diane Legomsky, a member of the Bloomington Refugee Support Network.

Self-identified grassroots conservatives, regular citizens and members of BRSN all met together for a working meeting and Q&A session Thursday night. Three Bloomington Police officers waited outside the room in case of conflict.

Eleven tables were set up, each to discuss different issues involved in refugee resettlement, such as employment opportunities, housing and medical care.

BRSN and Exodus Refugee Immigration Inc. located in Indianapolis are currently working together for a proposal to build an Exodus office in Bloomington and compile a directory of resources, Diane Legomsky a leader of BRSN, said.

Legomsky said these resources will be made available to all people in Bloomington, including homeless people and veterans.

“It will help all the people helping the refugees,” Legomsky said.

Cole Varga, the executive director of Exodus, said that Bloomington was originally considered for an office in 2010, but the idea never made it to an actual proposal like it has this year.

Varga said that new cities and offices are needed to welcome refugees. Now that President Obama has allowed up to 110,000 refugees to enter the United States over the next year, Varga said Exodus saw this as the opportunity.

Exodus has been located in Indianapolis for 35 years. Varga said that this was the right time to come to 
Bloomington.

“The time is now to expand,” Varga said.

Grassroots conservative leader Robert Hall said that he was not opposed to helping people, but he was concerned with the background and vetting process for refugees entering the country.

“That’s my biggest concern: the vetting,” Hall said.

Hall noted in the Q&A section of the meeting that FBI director James Comey had testified before Congress that he could not be certain of every refugee entering the country.

Hall also said that other cities like Minneapolis have suffered from problems after accepting refugees and he did not see why the United States could not help refugees while keeping them in their own country.

“We could take the same amount of money and help them over there,” Hall said.

At the table devoted to the discussion of employment opportunities local citizens met and discussed the issues of training people for work and providing a possible living wage.

Legomsky said that the discussion and work is just beginning and BRSN is still working to figure out exactly what is needed, but that there have been good suggestions at the meeting.

Stephen Pollitt, a self-employed fine finish worker, said that training is vital for those coming into the country but that there is a great amount of opportunity for those trained and semi-trained workers.

Pete Lenzen, another member of BRSN, said that this was the first of many working meetings and that they planned on having more small group meetings scheduled that will be more focused in the future.

Lenzen, a 31-year Navy veteran, answered the final question on how BRSN could make sure of the security of the community and said that no plan is without risk.

“No plan is perfect,” Lenzen said. “I believe this is the right thing to do.”

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