One of the areas that I have long agreed with Governor Snyder on is the need for Michigan to be a welcoming state that encourages immigration and cultural diversity. That is why I was profoundly disappointed to hear Governor Snyder call for a “pause” on bringing Syrian refugees to Michigan. Fear has overtaken cool-headed, rational thought. Leaders should be explaining that there is an extremely comprehensive vetting process conducted by both the United Nations and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that can take between one to three years to complete. It includes in-person interviews and multiple background checks. As elected officials, we should be using our platform to educate people and make sound decisions based on facts rather than creating fear to move forward a political agenda.
As a board member for the Refugee Development Center (RDC) in Lansing, I know firsthand that the refugees being resettled in our region are decent, kind, and hard-working people. These families come here often after fleeing unimaginable horrors that few of us could imagine. They come here to escape persecution, protect their loved ones and live without fear. For those of you looking to be involved in aiding refugees being located in the United States, I would encourage you to take an opportunity to volunteer or donate to the RDC to support their efforts: http://www.refugeedevelopmentcenter.org/. The RDC provides support to refugees and helping them become self-sufficient members of our society.
For those looking for other ways to get involved, Lutheran Social Services and St. Vincent Catholic Charities are also doing important work regionally to help refugees transition.
House Democratic Floor Leader - 69th District
The character of a place derives from the people who live there. In East Lansing, our character is not defined by the disputes we have over development, or relatively petty complaints but rather from the way we react to and relate to the human issues that we occasionally face.
Michigan is home to, depending on who is doing the ranking, the second or third largest Muslim population in the United States. In East Lansing, Muslims comprise the 4th largest faith and we probably have the largest population outside of Southeast Michigan of individuals with a Middle Eastern ethnic heritage. We are the home of the Islamic Center of Greater Lansing and its school.
In East Lansing, our business is education and our population, which includes nearly 7,700 foreign born students from 128 foreign countries, is (again depending on which group is doing the ranking) the second or third most educated in the United States. 71% of our population over the age of 25 have a bachelor degree or higher.
Right after 9/11 our Mosque was the subject of an errant (luckily) gunshot. A non-Muslim church on Coolidge was vandalized with anti-Muslim graffiti (demonstrating that the perpetrator probably did not receive his or her education in East Lansing). When the FBI requested our police department to indiscriminately stop and question members of our Muslim population, the then Police Chief, Lou Muhn, politely told them to take a hike. When a copy of a Qur'an was torn, burned, covered with feces and left on the steps of East Lansing's Mosque on a later 9/11, the community reaction was to join together and to clearly and loudly reject such acts.
So, in case you are wondering why I am commenting on all this, I want to make it clear to our Governor, the US Congress, our State Legislature and anyone else out there who may think the ignorant and shallow statements of Trump or Carson should be the public policy of Americans, East Lansing will welcome Syrian refugees, Send them here if you are looking for a place that they can be welcomed as we have welcomed many other refugees. No matter what your religion is, the same message is transmitted: we have a duty to other humans to help when the need is there.The pubic policy of this city is the local version of the Emma Lazarus poem inscribed on the Statue Of Liberty, especially that part: "Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me."
Mark Meadows, Mayor of East Lansing, Michigan
This was printed in the November 29, 2015 - December 12, 2015