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Molly Newcomb, Secretary Treasurer of the Lemhi County Republican Central Committee, addressed the Lemhi County Commissioners Monday, December 14, not as a member of the committee but as a private citizen. Her concern was centered over the lack of background checks conducted on refugees entering this country. Although the Central Committee had not yet met on the subject Newcomb said an unofficial canvas of opinion indicated support. The committee is scheduled to meet this week.

She presented a draft resolution regarding Syrian refugees in Idaho. She said the Refugee Relocation Resolution opposing such resettlement was originally drafted in Adams County. Newcomb said Bonner and Kootenai County Commissioners have adopted the resolution and that Boundary County Commissioners are in the process of making some minor wording changes but will adopt it shortly. She said the Adams County Commissioners were to be voting on the resolution that day.

Her request to the commissioners was that they sign a resolution stating the county will not approve, participate in or proceed with the expenditure of any county funds to assist in the United States Refugee Resettlement Program in Lemhi County. The proposed resolution calls upon the governor of the state as well as the Idaho Legislature and all public officials within the state to desist from the placement of refugees anywhere in the state until the legislature has convened and passed legislation reflecting the will of the people regarding the refugee resettlement plans. The resolution, as currently written, further insists that the commissioners, governor and legislature will act to only allow the federal government to use its own property within the state for any refugee resettlement and that the federal government would be required to indemnify hospital districts, school districts and other specialty districts from all financial impacts of such resettlement.

Newcomb’s remarks concentrated on the commissioner’s role of protecting the health, safety and welfare of county citizens. She said in view of the executive order by the federal government to relocate thousands of refugees from the Middle East to the United States, there is an urgent concern among citizens of Lemhi County regarding security, terrorism, public health and the expenditure of public funds. Newcomb said even though the federal government is funding some of the relocation costs, the educational costs to school districts, health districts and law enforcement agencies will result in heavy financial burdens placed on local taxpayers.

Newcomb quoted the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Deputy Assistant Director of Counter-Terrorism, Michael Steinbach, as saying the agency is unable to conduct adequate background checks on the numbers of Middle East refugees from Syria due to the lack of access to records in an area of anarchy. She said that in testimony before a House Homeland Security committee in February of 2015 Steinbach said, “The U.S. does not have boots on the ground and does not have access to reliable police or intelligence records.”

The draft resolution goes on to cite one refugee who came to Idaho from Uzbekistan and has since been convicted of three terrorism related charges involving trying to provide computer support and money to a terrorist organization and was, according to federal authorities, determined to carry out an attack on U.S. soil.

County Commissioner John Jakovac said the board will ask Lemhi Prosecuting Attorney Bruce Withers to review the document and render an opinion.

Syrian refugees are pin-pointed as the document’s focus in several paragraphs of the draft resolution. In an ensuing discussion with Commissioner’s Chairman Rick Snyder, Commissioner Jakovac and Commissioner Ken Miner the issue of discrimination towards a particular race or religion was raised. Snyder referred to a comment from US Attorney General Loretta Lynch in which she stated any effort to discriminate against Syrian refugees, or Muslims in particular, would be subject to federal prosecution by the Department of Justice. Snyder said the last thing people in Lemhi County need is to be involved in a law suit with the federal government on charges of discriminatory practices and that’s why the board will turn over the draft document for a legal opinion.

Newcomb suggested the draft resolution could be reworded to reflect refugees coming from any area where loss of documentation makes vetting difficult. She said the problem of people coming into this country without being properly vetted is the main issue and is a broad one.

The proposed draft document on the relocation of refugees asks that a resolution be adopted by the County Commissioners declaring that Lemhi County is opposed to the relocation of refugees in Lemhi County from the United States Refugee Resettlement Program.

Sentiments expressed by some of the people who were in attendance indicated a great concern for effects on local law enforcement and potential refugee education costs on the already burdened educational system. The commissioners were also asked to consider the power of counties to ‘push up’ through the strata of government to apply pressure on the legislature and the state. Another spokesperson said she wished to speak on behalf of the Christian people in Syria. She said it is her understanding that Christians will not go to the Syrian refugee camps because of the persecution being inflicted and that refugees coming to this country from those camps have already been expunged by what they have undergone.

In response to a comment about the United Nations issuing orders as to the number of refugees parts of the this country must accept, Miner predicted this community would have a big “push-back” if that were to happen.

Jakovac said the county certainly has an obligation to protect the safety of those in this community and the board will review the proposed resolution. He felt that obtaining legal counsel on potential liability issues is also part of the county’s obligation.

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