- Associated Press - Sunday, January 8, 2017

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - Missoula has become a refuge for more than 40 men, women and children from war-ravaged lands in Africa and Iraq, more than 30 years after last of some 550 refugees from Southeast Asia, most of them Hmong who supported U.S. efforts in the secret war in Laos, were brought to western Montana.

The International Rescue Committee and volunteers of Soft Landing Missoula stepped in to help after the community offered to help the latest refugees resettle in Montana.

County Commissioner Jean Curtiss said in an email that her office hasn’t been in contact with any of the refugees, but she believes community members are doing all they can to welcome the families.

“These refugee families have been through a lot so having a safe and supportive community to relocate (in) is a blessing for them,” Curtiss said. “In return the fabric of the Missoula community has been made even more beautiful with the culture, experiences, music and lives of our new neighbors from around the globe.”

The move has not been without controversy. Incumbent Ryan Zinke, in his successful run for Montana’s seat in the U.S. House, joined a number of Republican lawmakers calling for Syrian refugees to be blocked from entering the United States until screening can be tightened. Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines expressed a similar view, as did Greg Gianforte in his unsuccessful bid to unseat Democratic governor Steve Bullock, the Missoulian reported (https://tinyurl.com/hau86gg).

The majority of the refugees are Congolese, many of whom were born in refugee camps in east Africa after their parents fled from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Officials say 19 refugees who’ve arrived in the first three months of the fiscal year puts Missoula behind pace to reach the goal set out in Missoula’s “Reception and Placement Abstract” filed in May, but resettlement officials are confident more will be coming.

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Information from: Missoulian, https://www.missoulian.com

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