AIRA to host a town hall meeting to discuss welcoming refugees to Ames


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Alex Ivanisevic

A long-awaited town hall meeting hosted by the Ames Interfaith Refugee Alliance is slatted for Tuesday evening to discuss welcoming refugees into Ames and Iowa.   

Mark Kassis, a representative for the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ames and town hall committee chair, gave some history of the organization.

“We started AIRA [Ames Interfaith Refugee Alliance] back in August of 2016,” Kassis said. “Over 20 Churches came together [United Church of Christ was the lead on this] to help resettle refugees in Ames … with a focus on Syrian war refugees.”

Kassis explained that after Donald Trump became president of the United States, the refugees that would have come to Ames were unable to. 

“We decided to push the town hall meeting to April 2017 with the emphasis of helping and welcoming refugees already settled in the Ames community,” Kassis said. “That is now our focus.”   

The meeting will have six panelists from varying political and social organizations. Each panelist will have time to speak about his or her efforts in welcoming refugees.

“We will then take questions from the audience as a follow-up,” Kassis said. “Our main goal is for community engagement and inclusiveness in Ames. We will also have a postcard writing table for people to write their state and federal representatives.”

Topics will include the path of refugee families, where refugees in Ames are coming from, help that might be available for refugee families. 

Kassis said they will continue the process toward becoming a certified resettlement community with the USCRI. The plan will be long term. 

“We have an extremely hostile president who is paranoid of the most vulnerable — especially Muslim Countries — in allowing refugees to come to our country,” Kassis said. “Even though out of millions of refugees resettled in the United States, in the last 10 years, NOT ‘1’ — really not 1 — has been involved with a terror attack. The vetting process takes years already for a refugee to come to our country.”

The meeting will last from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Ames Public Library Auditorium.