Southern mayors rebuke fear mongers; welcome refugees

DURHAM, NC – Shortly after Rick Scott, the governor of Florida, told CNN News that he wants no Syrian refugees in his state, the mayor of the state capital said he will welcome them.

Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, announced: “I pledge my continued support for providing the care and refuge needed by those escaping violence and persecution. … When we turn against each other as neighbors and global citizens, the terrorists win.”

Gillum is just one of many Southern mayors pushing back against fear-mongering and anti-refugee rhetoric.

Recently, eighteen Southern mayors sent a letter to President Obama expressing support for his call to resettle as many as 10,000 Syrian refugees in the U.S. over the next year.

Also, Clarkston, Georgia, Mayor Ted Terry spoke out against Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s request to bar additional Syrian refugees from the state.

Terry said, “the reality is that extending a welcoming hand and relief for people who, through no fault of their own, are caught up in this civil war is an incredibly smart and powerful way to engender confidence and friendship across the Middle East and across the entire world,”

In addition, Nashville Mayor-elect Megan Barry publicly rebuked Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s request that federal officials stop sending Syrian refugees to his state.

Barry, said “I believe that when Nashville can welcome new Americans that we should try the best we can to do that and give them support that [they] need.”

Moreover, the Institute for Southern Studies, based here, circulated a statement saying “Many community advocates and direct service providers are calling for compassion instead of fear.”

The Institute cited many examples of Southern hospitality being extended to refugees, including:

The North Carolina Justice Center and the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition have both launched online petitions condemning moves by their state officials to block resettlement of Syrian refugees.

The Catholic Charities organization in Louisville, Kentucky, is preparing to welcome 200 refugees from Syria. Sixty three Syrians have already been resettled in Kentucky, about half of whom are children.

Students at Middle Tennessee State University have started a social media campaign to combat Islamophobia on campus and in the broader community of Murfreesboro, where construction of a new mosque in 2010 was plagued by vandalism, arson, protests and a years-long lawsuit that ultimately failed.

The Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia, a North Carolina-based coalition, held a public forum in Fayetteville, near Fort Bragg. The Forum was co-sponsored by the Quaker Meeting of Fayetteville and Jewish Voice for Peace.

Furthermore, even after it received a threatening phone call, the Greensboro, North Carolina, office of the Church World Service continued helping Syrian refugees.

“These threats aren’t going to keep us from serving refugees and resettling refugees,” said Stephanie Elizabeth Adams, director of the group.

Photo: Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia.



Larry Rubin
Larry Rubin

Larry Rubin has been a union organizer, a speechwriter and an editor of union publications. He was a civil rights organizer in the Deep South and is often invited to speak on applying Movement lessons to today's challenges. He has produced several folk music shows.