TWIN FALLS — The leader of a group that wants to halt refugee resettlement drew cheers from an audience of more than 200 people as she decried what she views as a coordinated Muslim plan to take over Western societies.
“All of us know something is not right with our country,” said Brigitte Gabriel, the founder and president of Act for America, which focuses on national security and the threat it says radical Islam poses to America.
The event Thursday at Twin Falls High School was sponsored by We the People Magic Valley, a group consisting of the local Act chapter, the John Birch Society, and Dallypost Tactical, a group run by Pocatello-area political activist Lance Earl. The III Percenters provided security.
Gabriel said she paid for her own airplane ticket and wasn’t paid to speak. Her name is a pseudonym — Gabriel has said in the past that she has gotten death threats — and while admission was free and open to everyone, security to get in was tight, with everyone having to empty their pockets and get checked with a metal detector wand. Signs on the way to the entrance asked people not to bring any guns, bags or computers inside.
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Refugee resettlement is an issue across the country. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for banning either Muslim immigration or immigration from countries with terrorism problems, and opposes letting in Syrian refugees. One of the loudest of Gabriel’s many applause lines was when she expressed hope that a President Trump would shut down refugee resettlement.
Resettling refugees became controversial in Twin Falls with a movement to close the College of Southern Idaho Refugee Center. That effort began in 2015 after news came out that Syrians could be among the refugees to be resettled in Twin Falls this year. No Syrian refugees have been resettled in the city. A petition for a ballot measure to shut down the Refugee Center failed to get enough signatures this spring.
The debate flared up again in June after news came that three boys from Iraqi and Sudanese families had, according to authorities, sexually assaulted a 5-year-old girl at the Fawnbrook Apartments.
Gabriel said refugee resettlement is a way for churches and contractors involved to make money and is part of a larger Islamic plot to infiltrate and take over the West.
She also spoke of sexual assaults elsewhere in the United States and in Europe that she blames on Muslim refugees.
She urged people to vote out the Twin Falls City Council, which she accused of trying to cover up what happened at the apartment complex. City officials and law enforcement have repeatedly denied this. The case is sealed, as is usual with juvenile cases, but they ended up releasing some basic details because ofo the public outcry.
“Next time it could be your wife, your daughter, your girlfriend, your mother,” Gabriel said.
Gabriel said she was born into a Maronite Christian family in Lebanon, a country that is divided between different Christian and Muslim sects, and when she was a child civil war broke out. In Gabriel’s telling, that war started because Lebanon accepted hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees, changing the country from majority Christian to majority Muslim.
Gabriel told the crowd her family lived in an underground in a bomb shelter for seven years, eating dandelions because they were the only greens they could find and crawling to avoid sniper fire to get water from a nearby spring, saying their last goodbyes as if one of them might die every time someone went to get water. She told the crowd stories about Muslim fighters desecrating Christian churches and torturing, raping and killing Christians in Lebanon.
“My past is America’s future unless America wakes up today and changes course,” she said.
Since its founding in 2007, Act for America has been part of passing 44 bills in 22 states, including bills banning the use of foreign laws in American courts that are aimed at blocking the use of Muslim Shariah law. Such a bill was introduced in Idaho this year but died when it didn’t get a full House vote before the end of the legislative session.