Global Refugee Center Director: Ohio State attack has increased uncertainty, concern in local Somali community
November 29, 2016
After hearing of the attack at Ohio State University on Monday, Global Refugee Center Executive Director Erich Strehl's first thoughts were for the victims. Eleven were injured when Somali-born student Abdul Razak Ali Artan drove his car into students and then stabbed many others.
But Strehl's mind quickly turned to Artan's Somalian heritage and the impact that could have on the community he serves in Greeley, a community already on edge after a contentious election season.
"I thought it was an unfortunate event to have happened at any time, but particularly now with the way things are in the United States with refugees and the program that resettles them," Strehl said.
Each year, the president, in consultation with Congress, sets a new ceiling on the number of refugees allowed into the country, according to the American Immigration Council. This year alone, President Barack Obama put a ceiling of 85,000 refugees allowed into the country, 25,000 alone from Africa, the AIC reported. The admission of refugees is weighted, the AIC reports, based on the degree of risk refugees face, memberships in groups of concern to the United States and whether the refugees have family already here.
For the past several years, 100-200 Somalian refugees have taken up residence in Greeley. After a period of time, refugees are no longer tracked, free to go anywhere just like any American, Strehl said. So pinpointing an exact number of Somalian refugees in Greeley or Evans at any one time is difficult. There's no indication any Somalian-born residents in northern Colorado have violent intentions, as the Ohio State student did. Strehl said attacks like the one at Ohio State serve to terrorize those in the Somali-American community as much as any other American.
"If anyone gets reprisal outside of the localized incident it would be those who have similarities to the individual carrying it out," Strehl said.
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Although Strehl hasn't heard specifically of verbal or physical attacks against local Somalian refugees, he knows there is uncertainty and concern in the community. It was that way when Donald Trump became president-elect, particularly among Muslim refugees.
"The concern has only been heightened, particularly in this last attack," Strehl said.
In October, authorities arrested three men in connection with a planned bombing of a Garden City, Kan., apartment complex housing mainly Somalian immigrants.
News of the plot struck fear in the local community.
"We did communicate with local police and even the FBI," Strehl said. "There didn't seem to be any known threat against refugees here."