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Groups Work to Counter Hate, Discrimination in Twin Falls

About 2,500 refugees have resettled in Twin Falls since the 1980s. (Danny Canfield/Flickr)
About 2,500 refugees have resettled in Twin Falls since the 1980s. (Danny Canfield/Flickr)
October 2, 2017

TWIN FALLS, Idaho – On Sunday, Adrienne Evans, executive director of United Vision for Idaho, addressed Twin Falls about what her coalition sees as a rising tide of hate and discrimination in the city.

Last week, The New York Times featured an article about a fake news story involving refugees and a juvenile sex crime that eventually became national news last year on sites such as Breitbart.

As the fabricated story spun out of control, hateful rhetoric toward refugees and Muslims grew, as well.

Evans maintains the source of hate is much deeper in Twin Falls, which has resettled about 2,500 refugees since the 1980s.

"You see people come out and express their concern that something's going to be taken away from them if rights are protected for refugees,” she states. “And I think that that is what has been bubbling beneath the surface of all of these other things that maybe make the front page."

Evans notes that Twin Falls has a very low unemployment rate, under 3 percent, and says refugees are part of the reason for that.

She says the presidential election last year emboldened hate groups and the escalating violence and racist behavior in the area prompted her coalition to provide anti-discrimination training this past weekend.

Evans points to the alt-right groups like the Proud Boys, who have armed themselves and intimidated community members. She say these groups may fear violence from refugees, but they're often the ones threatening violence.

"So, we focus on the story that came out in Twin Falls and say, 'Oh, you know, is there a threat happening from a refugee population?'” she states. “When in fact all of the evidence shows that the threat is actually coming from white populations targeting refugee communities."

Evans says the voices of hate in Twin Falls are few, but they are loud. She says she traveled to Twin Falls Sunday because the community is looking to stand up to discrimination, and that says a lot about the character of Idahoans.

"These instances will happen, but it is not the thing that defines us,” she stresses. “What defines us is our response to them."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID