May 15, 2017


Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones said refugees ravaged an Idaho town with disease and crime. The town says folks get along just fine (DAVID MONTERO, MAY 6, 2017, LA Times)

The refugees have been coming here for decades, settling in this Idaho town on the edge of a deep canyon carved out by the Snake River.

There were Cambodians. Then Bosnians arrived after the collapse of Yugoslavia. Rwandans fleeing genocide found haven here. Recently, it's been Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans.

They've opened stores and restaurants in Twin Falls, a community of 47,000 that loves its high school rodeos and takes great pride in its biggest natural attraction: the Shoshone Falls, dubbed "the Niagara of the West." Dairy farms, cornstalks and potato fields sprawl out on both sides of Interstate 40. The open sky is uninterrupted for miles.

Eshef Jasarevic, who had fled Bosnia, liked it all right away. He opened Emma's Cafe three years ago ("Sixty-four Yelp reviews -- all five stars," he boasts with a broad smile). Across town, Sokry Heng's family started an Asian market 15 years ago. Business was good enough that they expanded to a larger location three years ago, also opening an Indian-Asian restaurant and a U-Haul franchise. She employs eight people now.

Twin Falls Mayor Shawn Barigar sees them as a continuation of the story of his city. It reminds him of his heritage -- Dutch and Bohemian ancestors who came to Idaho five generations ago to start a new life.

But now he sees the city's image under siege -- caught in the crossfire between far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and one of the area's largest economic drivers, the yogurt company Chobani, and the debate over refugees spurred by President Trump's proposed travel bans.

Barigar believes Jones went too far by saying the city is being infiltrated by Muslim terrorists spreading disease and committing violent crimes.

"When people who have never been here -- who don't understand the fabric of the community -- try to tell a story about it without facts, that's detrimental to all of us," Barigar said.

Posted by at May 15, 2017 9:38 AM