While it’s not likely that many refugees will be resettled in the area anytime soon, it’s not too early to put out a welcome mat.That’s why the Moscow Human Rights Commission selected refugees as the subject of focus for Racial Equality and Inclusivity Month. Upcoming events include a panel discussion with three local refugees from the Middle East and Africa and a discussion on refugee resettlement issues and policies, led by Slobodanka Hodzic, program director for the Agency for New Americans in Boise. The month’s events wrap up with handouts and activities for Human Rights Day at the Moscow Farmers Market and a community covered-dish dinner.
Moscow has only a small number of refugees who have resettled in the community and no plans are in place to attract more. This is largely because rural areas are not ideal for refugee families.
“Refugee centers like to settle them in bigger cities because there are more resources,” said Ken Faunce, chair of the Moscow Human Rights Commission.
The commission has communicated with refugee centers in Spokane and Boise. Even if there is an openness to accepting refugees locally, both centers receive so few new refugees that they are easily resettled in these urban areas, Faunce explained. There, refugee centers help connect immigrants with housing and job opportunities, as well as support services.
A number of things would need to change in order for Moscow to become a resettlement community, but there’s one thing Faunce sees at the top of that list.
“The biggest one is attitudes — realizing that refugees just want a safe place to live and get on with their life,” Faunce said.
The month’s events are designed to promote this perspective. The panel discussion is designed to show that refugees are normal people, Faunce said, and the resettlement issues and policy discussion is a chance for community members to ask questions.
Besides the lack of supportive resources, Moscow is not likely to attract refugees because it has declined to become a sanctuary city. A sanctuary city is one that protects refugees and undocumented citizens by not working with federal authorities trying track down those living within its borders. There are legal ramifications to this status, Faunce said, including potential loss of federal funding, which is often of greater concern to smaller communities. In lieu of becoming a sanctuary city, he said, Moscow issued a welcoming resolution that essentially states that everyone is welcome in the community.
As part of the National League of Cities, Moscow celebrated Racial Equality and Inclusivity week for many years on the first week of September, focusing on things like racism, LGBT issues and those with disabilities. Though no longer celebrated nationally, Moscow has continued the practice; this year they decided to extend the events to a whole month.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Moscow Racial Equality and Inclusivity Month Events
7 p.m. Sept. 14, Refugee panel discussion, 1912 Center, 412 E. Third St., Moscow
7 p.m. Sept. 21, Refugee resettlement discussion, 1912 Center
8 a.m.-1 p.m. Sept. 30, Human Rights Day at Moscow Farmer’s Market, Friendship Square
7 p.m. Sept. 30, community covered-dish dinner, 1912 Center
Find out the story of a local Iraqi refugee in this related story: