Editor's response to "Syrian Refugees are not welcome in Sanders County"

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Last Wednesday, the Clark Fork Valley Press published a front page article entitled, “Syrian Refugees are not welcome in Sanders County.” I wrote the article and serve as editor of the CFVP and Mineral Independent.

 The article addresses specifically the Sanders County Board of Commissioner’s letter to Anne C. Richard, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. It further examines the language used in the letter and expands into an essay about the debate within the county, the logic behind the creation of the letter, and concludes with data provided by the U.S. government sources.

 In the limited time I have been in Sanders County, I have spoken with many people and heard opinions concerning refugees, however, when people spoke I could rarely understand what sources they were drawing their information from. So, I became curious and wanted to do some research.

 Yesterday I posted the story online, and since then it has received a lot of attention from readers. It’s fair to say that the criticism of the article has not been positive, and numerous objections were raised.

 I am responding to these criticisms—which will also be published as a matter of record in next week’s edition.

 First, I’d like to present the criticism:


Front page editorial erroneously paints a picture of hate, selfishness and greed

 Dear Editor Burns,

Let me correct your opening statement in bold underline… in the April 20th front page editorial.

“The message is clear from the Sanders County Board of commissioners and the vast majority of Sanders County Citizens: We do not want even 2% of the un-vetted Syrian Terrorists on our land in this county or… in this country”.

This county is one of the most loving and accepting of people who are in need of help of any kind. Your front page editorial erroneously paints a picture of hate, selfishness and greed. When the president truly accepts the responsibility to our congress to use all the legislative powers that they have, and Obama upholds the oath of office to protect all the citizens of the United States, then… perhaps we would have more confidence to accept Syrian Refugees that currently are not being vetted properly. Further, the president has set aside the acceptance of Christian Syrian Refugees. Why is that?

I know that you are a new guy in town, but you better know that we watch over and protect our own. We are not so quick to accept a new guy who thinks that he has all of the liberal answers for the world and that we are a bunch of old retired hicks who don’t know which way is up.

I don’t know where you got your information, but obviously you failed to ask around and get some “valid” opinions of our conservative values in this county.

We allow the occasional misguided rantings of our “former” state senator and representative, Jim Elliott. Jim does have some interesting “twists” to make his liberal point, but he in no way represents the majority conservative values of this county. We like him and we even sometimes read him.

I hope that you read Jim’s column last Wednesday. This was a great column and perfectly describes your… opening front page column. You certainly got our attention, but I don’t think you made any friends, and… perhaps… you don’t care.

If… this is the case, and you don’t care… I don’t believe that there is a future for you doing editorials like you did for a very conservative area.

 —Les Wood, Plains




 Shame on you for printing that slanted editorial about the Commissioner’s meeting and the Syrian refugee problem.  Since your “reporter” wasn’t present at the meeting, it is apparent that what was written was just a liberal hit piece.  Perhaps you should emphasize to him that in the future, one’s opinions should not be confused with NEWS.  

Conscientious journalists strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility.

 —Ken Matthiesen


(The following responses are from the Clark Fork Valley Press/Mineral Independent Facebook page):

 When I saw this article on the front page of the paper, I thot (sic) it was an article about the commissioner’s meeting earlier in April. I attended that meeting. There were concerns about housing, jobs, and that refugees would strain county resources. The only time the word Muslim was used was by someone who was pro having the refugees in our county insinuating that people opposed were anti-Muslim. There were several very knowledgeable people there that spoke on things like percentages of radicalized people possible in a group of people from Syria and the money that the NGO’s that are facilitating the settling the refugees are making. This article should have been on the opinion page where it belongs.

 —Vicki Brown

 As Vicki said below this article is pure opinion and deserved to be on the opinion page. The writer is ignoring the reality of todays refugees. Of course our country has always taken refugees but doesn’t mean we should always take refugees who want to come to our country and segregate themselves and demand rights that will make America a Third World Country which it is fast becoming because of people with the views of the writer. Time for America to wise up and hats off the Sanders County Commissioners for having the guts to lead their county!

 —Ed Kugler

 Sanders county Good for you, If people would stop and take a moment and see what the European countries are already saying, Which in a nut shell is,: As soon as your country has some semblance of being settled you have to go back home, you can not stay here, All of the countries that have taken them in are suffering from depleted resources, People being squeezed out of jobs by people willing to work for less, You name it is happening, I say until we have every homeless family and veteran set up with housing and jobs or aid of some kind we have no business taking in anyone.

 —Arlan Racine

 The standard talking points ‘give out’ by the groups poised to collect $1,800+ per head in federal money like Missoula’s ‘Soft Landing’ - sounds like HUMAN TRAFFICKING to me, illegal in Montana. As for the lefts love of ‘diversity’ - well there is plenty of diversity in Seattle, San Fransicko, and other metropolitan localities, why insist on altering the homogeneous nature of rural America to comply with their ideology?

 —Lark Chadwick


 Before we go any further, we need to agree on a couple of premises. What can I conclude from these criticisms?

1. The article is “pure opinion” / a “slanted editorial” / “erroneous”

2. I am “ignoring the reality of today’s refugees”

3. I was not at the commissioner’s meeting, and therefore I should be excused from writing about the meeting and the letter which resulted from it.

 Concerning the first premise: While it certainly has aspects of being of an opinion, no where in the article do I cast judgment—I do not offer an opinion in support nor opposition of Syrian refugees. However, it is fair and accurate to say I am critical—as in deconstructing the logic—of the language used in the letter, specifically the commissioner’s position of no-support due to a vetting system, and absolute term “foolproof” regarding the system that is “guaranteed to work.”

This language by definition means “without error.” Honestly, how is that possible? So, by that logic, if there was a guaranteed, foolproof system, only then would refugees be allowed? Of course, the criticisms of the vetting process is documented, and members within the government have expressed concerns. However, in the article I simply wanted to know the numbers. I cite the sources and I identify where and when I am speculating.

 It is fair and accurate to say the article is an editorial, which by definition means presenting an opinion on a topical issue. However, it's an investigation into the larger debate and the language used by the commissioners.

 As far as being “erroneous,” I cite my sources concerning data and the quotes from both letters. If I am incorrect, I will issue a correction in the next week’s edition. Please email me: editor@vp-mi.com

 Concerning the second premise: The point of the (which I must admit is a failure on my part) article was to bring data into a discussion when people who I have spoken with do not say where they got their information.

 That’s why I went to the government websites to at least get a grasp on the numbers of refugees, where they are located, and so on.

 Concerning the third premise: I did not attend the commissioner’s meeting on April 5, therefore I am not seeing the "reality" of the refugee situation.

However, the official minutes are posted on the Sanders County website—who attended, what was said.

 The meeting was April 5, listed on the agenda as a meeting with Gerald Cuvillier, Citizen concerning Syrian refugee resettlement.

 Commissioner Glen Magera, Presiding officer, said that it was not a public hearing.

From the minutes: “Presiding Office (sic) Magera advised that time was limited as this was not a public hearing.”

 Magera also encouraged citizens to email or write their comments and send to the Board of Commissioners.

 From the minutes:

 “Ed Cooglier, affiliated with Act for America and grass roots security fighting Sharia Law and protecting the United States and Montana.”

 The commissioners were presented with 50 signatures from citizens regarding Syrian resettlement.

 “Martha Humphreys: it’s all about feelings and what we are afraid of. The economical impact is far different position, if its economics I agree. Just in terms of ethnicity and religion is very offensive to me.”

 The Mayor of Thompson Falls: “Mark Sheets: is against sending a letter about the resettlement of refugees, you didn’t have to get permission to leave here or come here. We all have the freedom, we need the freedom, and more diversity the more vibrant the community is. Just give them a chance and go with it.”


 What can we conclude? That it was not a public hearing—it’s possible that due to limited public awareness not as many opinions were presented to the commissioners. It’s also possible that the opinions voiced are a fair representation of all of Sanders County. Or, as Mr. Woods wrote above, the “vast” majority of Sanders County.

 Concerning that, just looking at an unscientific poll by the Sanders County Ledger, the newspaper in Thompson Falls, reveals some possible insight: 80 percent were “not worried” about refugees. 

 Added to this, let’s examine the timeline: On April 5, the commissioners meet with citizens in what Magera said was “not a public hearing.” On April 6, the official agenda for the county commissioners was suspended, due to “conflicting schedules.” On April 7, the letter created.

 Between the end of the meeting on April 5 and the creation of the letter on April 7, did the commissioners have enough time to receive emails, public comments, and do research, as Paul Fielder suggested in the meeting?

 It’s possible, yes, there was plenty of time. It’s possible the research had already been done.

As I conclude in the original article, the debate reveals a level of uncertainty.


 The following letters were printed in the Clark Fork Valley Press:


printed April 13, 2016

 I hope you are cognizant of the implications for Sanders County if an enclave of potentially radical Muslims is imported into Montana. It appears that the liberals in Missoula County are already welcoming this invasion with open arms. You can’t be blind to the fact that the majority of Sanders County citizens are conservative in nature, but generally silent. We fear for our lives, property and jobs as well as worrying about having to support these people with our hard earned tax dollars. I see these people as leaches much like illegal aliens. My grandparents immigrated legally, met the requirements for citizenship and proudly assimilated into society, working long and hard to care for their families in the process. 

Don’t be lulled by the rhetoric and propaganda being spewed by the media. They are in bed with those that will profit from this, not the general public. Be proactive, take a stance for our jobs, economy and safety. 

If you really care about our county, start talking to the man or women on the street, not just your political cronies.

—Ken Matthiesen, Plains


printed April 13, 2016

 Syria is universally recognized by all US and International Intelligence Agencies as being the leading trainer and supplier of Islamic Terrorists to the World. Syria’s capital Damascus, was once “the Paris of the Middle East”, but now lies in ruin because of years of sectarian violence from Muslims fighting Muslims, while each side killed Christians as a common enemy. Led by Assad, the dictator, the last decades of Syrian rule have been supported by Russian weapons and aid. This mix of Communist influence and Revolutionary Jihad has resulted in generations growing up with both war and Jihad as a constant.

The primary reason that no Syrians should be admitted at this time is that we are at war with Islam’s Jihadi followers. They invoke religion, while killing Americans around the globe and they are using our weakness of sympathy to bring their agents of death into our country. San Bernardino, Major Hassan, and the Tennessee Recruiting Center killings are all recent examples of murder committed by Jihadists, who are now killing Americans in the USA.

There is no way to properly verify the identity, much less the motives, of refugees from Syria, since its government has collapsed. Records of birth, employment, loyalty or even religion are not available in Syria as a result of sectarian, religious, jihad, extending back for decades. We did not offer wholesale immigration to Germans, Italians, or Japanese, during WWII, but opened our doors to those countries both before and after the war. We must acknowledge that, like Iraq and Afghanistan, we are committed to playing sides in Syria’s war and the Jihadi’s know this and want to strike back at us.

Comparisons to previous immigration here are being made, but previous immigrants wanted to be here to assimilate and they were, and those immigrants were made up of our allies and friendly nations. Syria does not want to be, nor has ever been, an ally of the USA. 

The obvious economic drain of bringing destitute, low skilled, and possibly violent people into a state that can barely support its own citizens economically is suicide. These people, displaced from the great deserts of the world are also ill adapted to life in the Pacific Northwest, it seems from a true humanitarian, environmental and personal point of view that it would be torture to relocate them here. Why are they not being sent to central Mexico, North Africa or India, areas in which they would be far more comfortable, but more importantly, why can’t they just correct their own country instead of being sent here to live off the income of low paid working people and retirees?

Lastly, much of this turmoil of Middle Eastern refugees is resulting in terror spreading across the whole of Europe, where rapes and other crimes are skyrocketing. In Norway, Sweden, Greece, England, Belgium, France and Germany, the citizens are all suffering from this forced influx. The Western world is just now beginning to pay the immigrants’ real price with their own citizen’s money, fear and blood.


—Bruce Hunn lives in Thompson Falls.

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