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Knightly: Refugee concerns seem to be a game of ‘telephone’

I remember being a student playing the game “telephone.” The class of maybe 20 or more would sit in a row and the teacher would whisper a phrase into the first student’s ear. By the time it reaches a few students down, the message has become unrecognizable. By the time it reaches the end, the original message has become fully corrupted.

The newspaper received a note on its Facebook page Tuesday around 8 p.m. that I will reprint in full.

“Why was the community NOT publicly notified of a meeting tonight at 6 pm a county commission on Calvada, DHS want to put refugees muslims in Pahrump ???? Why was the citizens NOT NOTIFIED???”

What went on Tuesday night at the county government building on Calvada Eye was a presentation by a former FBI agent, John Guandolo, titled “Understanding the Threat.” According to his website of the same name, the program “provides threat-focused strategic and operational consultation, training, and education for federal, state and local leadership and agencies in government, the private sector, and for private citizens” focused on Muslim Brotherhood’s terrorism threats.

That last part, “private citizens”, was the focus of Tuesday’s meeting. He was also in town for three days presenting his program to the Nye County Sheriff’s Office and Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue Services at no cost to taxpayers.

I will admit that I did not attend Tuesday’s meeting (newspaper duties), but reporter Selwyn Harris interviewed Guandolo on Wednesday (see page A1). The former Naval Academy graduate doesn’t know where the refugees to Pahrump talk came from, but he was well aware of the rumor, calling it “ignorant.” I also talked with many county and emergency officials, and none of them know where the rumor is coming from, although some had a good idea. They all to a man/person deny any Muslim refugees are on their way.

To answer the message, there was no notice on a public meeting about Muslim refugees coming to Pahrump, because there was no meeting on a plan to bring Muslim refugees to Pahrump.

The Facebook post was not the only place we heard the rumor. The newspaper received a few calls at the office on Wednesday, more posts made the rounds on social media, and I received a couple of concerned emails.

My friend Bill, the one I moved to Nevada from Tennessee with 26 years ago, even sent me a message on Facebook on Wednesday afternoon asking if I’d heard the “rumor that Pahrump will be housing Syrian refugees?” I hadn’t talked to Bill since the end of October.

Someone else posted that it was going to be 3,000 refugees. Then that morphed into 3,000 Muslim men with plans for a mosque. “Telephone.”

I don’t know what to do with this except refute it all.

Here is my thought process. Say, for a moment, Nye County officials and law enforcement wanted to open its arms to 3,000 anybody, there isn’t the infrastructure in place to do so.

Even if it was a few hundred, or dozen, there still isn’t the support mechanisms in place. Where would they live? Where would they work? How would they be fed? The community struggles to help the homeless and those in need that are already here.

All that being said, the ultimate power to resettle refugees lies with the federal government and the president. In 2015, President Barack Obama committed to bringing more than 10,000 Syrian refugees to the United States, but there has not been talk of placing a large number in small rural communities.

I am concerned about the undertone running through some of the talk I heard around the meeting. On that, I would suggest reading today’s “Inside the First Amendment” column by Charles C. Haynes.

Arnold M. Knightly is the editor of the Pahrump Valley Times

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