Moon requests special session regarding refugees
State Rep. aims to stop 'potential Islamization of Missouri'
State Rep. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, has sent a letter to House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, requesting a special session to prevent Gov. Jay Nixon from allowing Syrian refugees to resettle in the state, and to prevent the "potential Islamization of Missouri."
In the letter, Moon says the state cannot be too careful, especially given that immigration officials report they cannot properly vet refugees.
"I do realize that the refugees we should be scrutinizing most is one who professes the muslim faith," Moon wrote in the letter. "Unless I'm mistaken, a practicing muslim can do whatever is necessary for the 'good' of the faith - telling 'fibs' is a smallpart of what they might do. And, from what I've seen, a practicing muslim comes in all flavors (black, white, brown, yellow - American, African, European, etc. etc.). A 'white' lie could allow an individual to pass through the vetting process."
Moon went on to write that, if his information is correct, Afghan refugees sent to Pakistani and Iranian refugee camps returned to their homeland when it was safe to do so.
"I see no reason not to follow that example because once they're on U.S. soil they'd have no reason to leave," he wrote. "Our preference, as a nation, should be to place the refugees in camps so that they can be properly cared for and returned safely home when the time is right.
"I ask that you begin the process of calling the General Assembly into Special session in order to tie the Governor's hand, putting a stop to the potential Islamization of Missouri."
Moon said the goal of the session would be to constrain the budget to keep state funds from being used to resettle any immigrants in Missouri.
"It would only be a temporary measure, because we have had successful resettling in the past," he told the Cassville Democrat Thursday. "But, the feds say they cannot fully vet these refugees."
Moon said the reference to putting refugees in camps alludes to what he saw in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami, where tent camps were set up to take care of refugees until they could return home.
"The [United Nations] has camps set up, so why not leave them there?" he said. "They should be cared for in an area close to home, and once the fighting settles down, they can return."
Moon said he does not advocate for camps for refugees in the U.S., rather, in countries neighboring Syria.
Moon said he has been in communication with Richardson, but is not sure if a special session will be called.
"We need three-fourths support, and we have to have a goal in mind," he said. "We are developing that goal, and I think we are close to something that will work."
For a special session to be called, a three-fourths majority vote means 123 representatives and 26 senators would be needed. The GOP holds 116 seats in the House and 24 seats in the Senate.
Regarding the "Islamization of Missouri," Moon said Islam is said to be a religion of peace, but only for those who are Muslim.
"If you look further, that peace is total domination," he said. "You are either Muslim or an infidel, and if you are an infidel, that is punishable by death. Look at what happened in Dearborn, Michigan. That city is predominately Muslim, and when Christians were there holding up signs quoting the Bible, they were stoned and beaten while the local police watched and did nothing to stop it. The Christians were then escorted away, and nothing happened to the perpetrators."
The incident to which Moon referred occurred in May 2012 at the Arab Festival in Dearborn, and in 2013, a federal judge threw out a case against the police who asked the Christian protestors to leave.
Videos of the incident show projectiles being thrown at the protestors by young Muslims, but also shows adult Muslims trying to disperse the crowd. The video also shows the Christian protesters with a pig's head on a stick and signs telling Muslims they are poised to burn in hell. One protester can be heard in the video yelling, "You're going straight to hell, you little dirtbag, wicked heathen." Many of the protesters engaged in the showing were members of an anti-Islam group, "Bible Believers," an Australian-based church whose website has reprinted anti-Semitic and Holocaust denial material.
Progress Missouri, a liberal advocacy group based in Jefferson City, said the move by Moon is bigoted and fear-mongering.
"We're used to extremist ideas from Moon, who sought to impeach Gov. Nixon and who feared the United Nations' 'Agenda 21' would creep into Missouri," wrote Kevin Garner, communications director for Progress Missouri. "However, Moon's new crusade against the 'Islamization' of our state is beyond the pale even for him, hitting a trifecta of new lows on bigotry, fear-mongering and a fundamental misunderstanding of the responsibilities of state government."
As of Thursday morning, 31 governors in the U.S. have said they oppose letting Syrian refugees into their states. However, the Refugee Act of 1980 would allow President Obama in this case to admit refugees, as they face persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, according to the act. He may also do so with speed if an unforeseen emergency refugee situation exists, such as the Syrian refugee crisis.
Obama has said he will accept up to 10,000 refugees. Since the civil war started in 2011, more than 1,500 Syrian refugees have been accepted into the United States, including 29 refugees resettled in St. Louis in March. That number is expected to rise to 100 by the summer of 2016. Those refugees are sponsored by the International Institute of St. Louis charity, and the screening and vetting process for acceptance into the U.S. can take up to two years.
This week, a number of faith-based groups who play a large role in resettling refugees have urged the GOP to allow refugees entry. Nine not-for-profit groups, several of them faith-based, that help resettle up to 70,000 refugees from around the world in the U.S. each year have come out against the GOP's stance. Those organizations include World Relief, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, and the Church World Service, among other evangelical groups.
State Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, and State Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, have also written letters to Gov. Nixon urging him to not allow refugees, saying the danger that some may be terrorists is too great a risk after the attack in Paris, France, on Nov. 13 that killed about 130 people.
Fitzpatrick said Thursday he would support a special session, but only if there was a plan in place and pre-drafted legislation. He said the goal with any legislation would be to not allow the state to cooperate with the federal government regarding placement in Missouri, and to not allow state-sponsored benefits to be used for refugees.
"If we get a preliminary draft we all agree on, I would support a special session, but I do not want to spend taxpayer dollars to have a special session without a plan in place," he said. "Special sessions cost a lot of money, so we have to meet as a caucus and unify on an idea. [To get a special session] would also require a 75 percent majority, and that would probably be difficult to attain."
Sater said he does not believe the call for a special session will gain any traction.
"I don't think [Richardson] will go there," he said. "They don't have the votes. I know they don't have the votes in the Senate, and I doubt the President Pro Tem [Tom Dempsey] will bring it up, so it's kind of a mute point."
The Missouri Sheriff's Association has also sent a letter to Nixon, urging him to not allow refugees in the state.
"There is little a governor can do to shape international foreign policy and federal immigration law," the letter said. "To the extent possible, the Sheriffs of Missouri ask that you stand with us and do what you can to help protect our great state from individuals who have illicit intentions and who may be using our heritage of compassion to displaced populations against us to gain entry in our borders in this time of crisis."
On Monday, Nixon released a statement saying the federal government should lead the way in handling incoming refugees.
"The safety of Missourians is my highest priority, and the terrorists who were involved in planning and perpetrating the attacks in Paris must be caught and brought to justice," Nixon said. "The screening process for refugees is the responsibility of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and I call on our federal partners to implement the strongest possible safeguards to protect our state and nation."
According to SyrianRefugees.eu, an estimated 9 million Syrians have fled their homes since a civil war began in March 2011. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 3 million have fled to neighboring countries like Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, and about 6.5 million are displaced within Syria.
Despite the attack in Paris, French President Francois Hollande said 30,000 refugees will be welcomed in France over the next two years.
"France will remain a country of freedom," he said. "Our country has the duty to respect this commitment."
Calls placed to Richardson's Capitol office phone went unanswered, as well as an email requesting a response to Moon's letter.