MOBERLY — A flurry of negative comments from conservatives on social media over Gov. Mike Parson’s decision to continue allowing refugees to settle in Missouri isn’t making much of an impression, Parson said Thursday.
At an appearance in Moberly, Parson said he hasn’t read most of the comments and he expects those voters to stick with him despite their displeasure.
“I honestly don’t have time to read the responses on social media that much,” Parson said. “... I would say if you ever had a politician that made you happy 97-98 percent of the time, I’d stick with them.”
On Monday, Parson sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo giving the state’s consent as a location to settle refugees. In his letter, Parson cited the contributions of immigrants, dating back to the early French settlement of the state and calling the 18,000 refugees arriving since 2002 “vital members of our communities.”
The letter is the state’s response to an unprecedented executive order signed in September by President Donald Trump that gives state and local governments the option to accept or refuse refugees.
On Thursday, the Boone County Commission Thursday voted unanimously to continue allowing refugees to settle in the county.
A check of Parson’s official social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook showed a number of Republican and conservative voters opposed to the resettlement of refugees in the state. Many stated they would vote against him in the Republican primary election in August. As of Thursday morning, of the replies and comments exhibiting strong opinions, most were negative.
“Appears @GovParsonMO does not want to win re-election since this secures a primary defeat,” Mike Milges wrote on Twitter.
The actions taken to expand investigations of refugees seeking shelter in the United States have strengthened security, Parson said.
“We wanted to make sure these people were vetted and they were here legally,” Parson said. “All of those requirements were met. ... We’re not taking criminals, we’re not taking terrorists, we’re not taking those types of people.”
The county commission’s letter to Pompeo notes the local tradition of welcoming refugees and the added security.
“The Boone County Commission is aware that refugee resettlement has been occurring in Boone County for several decades and is further aware that the Administration has increased the protections for communities who might receive such refugees through its recent policy decisions,” the letter states. “Thus, any risk that might otherwise have existed is substantially diminished because of the Administration’s actions.”
The letter highlights the security issue because that is the focus for most people apprehensive about accepting refugees, Northern District Commissioner Janet Thompson said after the vote.
“I think that was one of the concerns of the Administration in putting out that executive order and we wanted to allay any fears by anybody that was looking at this process to say, hey, not only have we been accepting these refugees for decades in Boone County but also there’s the additional protection afforded to folks here that these are people who have gone through the vetting process,” Thompson said.
Refugees are an asset to Boone County, she said. The new arrivals bring diversity, a different outlook on the world and energy that creates new businesses.
“I have been here since 1959, and I remember kids in my school who had never heard a language other than English,” Thompson said. “I think it gives something to a community when you know that there is somebody from a different part of the world and you see that different view of reality.”
The refugees that will settle in Missouri are already living in the United States. The hope is that they will become productive state residents, Parson said.
“They’re already here anyhow, so they’re going to go somewhere,” he said. “And you know what? It’s the right thing to do.”
Some of those against Parson’s decision said they did not want taxpayer dollars going to help resettle refugees. Among the detractors, there were a number of comments condemning “illegal” immigration, though all of the refugees entering the state would do so legally.
“You are on the wrong path for Missouri and for the United States. You will be voted out,” Rebecca Kocinski Milton wrote on Facebook.
There was some support.
“Our country was built upon legal immigration,” Dave Spence wrote on Facebook. “This is a smart move given that the workforce is tighter than it has been in many decades. Legal immigration adds energy to a community.”
Some wrote that Parson’s decision was compassionate and would ultimately benefit Missouri’s economy.
“Good call on accepting the refugees,” Peggy Dwyer wrote on Facebook. “Not only have you taken a stand on the side of compassion, but as the historical data show us, you have taken a position that in the mid to long-term will be good for the Missouri economy.”
Everyone living in Missouri is descended from immigrants, Parson noted.
“Honestly, that’s how we all got here one way or another, by coming across into this country,” Parson said.
Parson is confident that conservative voters will vote for him, despite the decision, he said.
“I think Missourians are smart enough to figure out that you’re never going to have a perfect candidate,” Parson said. “I’m not going to do everything to make everybody happy all the time.”
Rudi Keller of the Columbia Daily Tribune contributed to this report.