Send Syrian Refugees to St. Louis

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By now, the world has witnessed the images of dead Syrian children on European beaches. We’ve heard of the refrigerated truck full of refugees–the truck without ventilation. We’ve watched Hungarian police hunting people like animals. Millions of Syrians have been displaced. Hundreds of thousands make it to Europe each year. Many never make it.

I have a proposal.

Send them to St. Louis.

We can take at least 60,000.

Our mayor, Francis G. Slay, is an Arab American. His grandfather Joseph R. Slay was born in Ottoman Greater Syria, in an area now part of Lebanon. Even in the first half of the twentieth century, Joseph was able to be elected as a St. Louis city alderman. Jospeh’s son was a Democratic committeeman in the city for more than four decades, a state representative and the city’s recorder of deeds. And then his grandson Francis G. was elected mayor … for four consecutive terms. Since the primary is the major election in St. Louis, I voted for him eight times.

That’s an Arab American dynasty ruling St. Louis.

We were doing diversity before the coasts decided it was cool.

And we have a history of welcoming Muslims, too. Twenty years ago, tiny little St. Louis City — the core of a much larger metro area — took in around 60,000 Bosnian refugees. Like the Syrians, they were fleeing civil war and sectarian violence. Like the Syrians, most were Muslims. Like the Syrians, many could speak no English. Like the Syrians, they were an entrepreneurial people, hard working, often educated. Like the Syrians, they wanted a new start. With support from amazing institutions like the International Institute, 60,000 Bosnians made their way to St. Louis.

And we love them.

Bosnians have brought nothing but blessing to St. Louis. Entire neighborhoods saw revitalization, new businesses were started, and the city’s decades-long decline in population slowed. Our region is better for their having joined us. No one at any end of the political spectrum has anything bad to say about our Bosnian neighbors. We have a track record of welcoming Muslims into our city and trusting them with our communities. St. Louisans love Bosnians.

And we also love Arabs. We trust Arab Americans to govern us, particularly of the Levantine variety.

I cannot speak for Cleveland or Detroit or Pittsburgh or any of the other cities in lands sometimes described as flyover country. But I am happy to speak for St. Louis. If Europe is full and if the American southwest and the coasts feel they’ve had their fill of immigration, then please send them here. We’ll happily make room beneath the Arch for the Statue of Liberty. And we’ll extend her welcome to huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The plight of the Syrian people is too sorrowful to do anything less.

With or without the statue, we can take at least 60,000 Syrians. Just google “St. Louis” and please direct them here.

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  • yeahIsaidit

    Bosnian “blessings”?? Yet St. Louis is still top 3 in crime….yeah, let’s send possible terrorist cells to a city that can easily supply them with weapons and anything else they want….thanks but us KC folk say NO. Send them to Canada or Mexico.

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  • Gravelyvoice Jim

    Just curious about something…is anyone who has positively commented about this below willing to take JUST ONE of these refugees, or a family of them, into their own home? If so, seek out the mayor or the pastor to make the offer then go to the media and make the offer PUBLIC. Seems like every “solution” I have seen or heard is to “bring them here”, but house them in somebody else’s neighborhood.

    Gotta love this “…young woman…” from St. Charles (see PD article) traveling from her middle/upper middle-class haven all the way to U City to demand that St. Louis take these people in and house/care for them. Why doesn’t she take one or more into her own home and PERSONALLY care for them, or at least march on St. Charles city hall to demand they be relocated in HER neghborhood?

    Same for the overpaid Wash U and SLU professors who live in gated communities and are advocating for the same.

    These self-righteous hypocrites are getting a bit tiresome.

  • tbatts666

    Where do refugees currently get housed?

    Is it hud housing? Where is it?

    Will housing here be an inorganic concentration of poverty?

    I’d agree diversity is great.

    I live in a neighborhood near concentrated, same age construction subsidized housing. The residents here are often victims of crime from people who live there and come here. Myself personally. Would they be dumped into subsidized housing?

    Anybody got any specific details for a gameplan for something like this?

  • Susan Tarde Petri

    Bring them here. I and others I know are happy to help in any way.

    • Gravelyvoice Jim

      Very noble, but I’m curious – would you take some of them into YOUR OWN HOME to live with you while you personally bear the cost?

  • Eric The Midget

    This comment section makes me want to barf.

  • Jim Spell

    Let’s do this. Bring them here.

  • Steve Kluth

    This is a no-brainer for St Louis. Slay needs to get in touch with the Obama administration, point out our experience in bringing in and assimilating immigrants, set up an office that could be the center of a Little Syria in the city much like the area around Bevo is a Little Bosnia, and make it happen. It will have to be an area that still has buildings but a lot of them which need fixing up like Fox Park or Carondelet. (There may be similar areas on the North Side, like Penrose or Baden. The NGA site looks like what’s left after a war zone is cleaned up.) I don’t care if they’re Christian, Sunni, Shi’ite, Druze, Alawite, or none of the above. These people are fighting and/or trying to get away from ISIS. They’d be a great addition to diversity in St Louis.

    • Presbyterian

      There are 40,000 vacant living units in the city. Plenty to choose from!

    • STLEnginerd

      ^I’d vote for the north end of Academy

      1327 Academy Ave. would be an ideal epicenter, with solid access to bus routes on Page and Kingshigway. Ideally the church next door could be aquired and repurposed as a Arabic language church or mosque. (depending on the predominant affiliation of migrants)

      Property is in LRA and could be rehabbed for barracks style living quarters with separate floors for men and women. Target demographics would be young families so that children entering the school system would not be too far behind their counterparts. Additionally the US should be VERY picky about the people selected in the first few waves. They will set the tone for establishing the community.

      There numerous LRA properties and inexpensive properties in the immediate vicinity and other properties available for very little. As the migrants transition to permanent housing more beds become available to the next wave.

      Hopefully a shared cost structure could be established, where the federal government matches private donations for language lessons, job finding, and basic legal advice on things like buying a home, etc. St. Louis city should commit to land grant opportunities to immigrants seeking permanent housing and access to city schools.

      Other abandoned schools could be similarly re-purposed, but this one seems like one of the most viable candidates and is situated in a fairly intact albeit distressed neighborhood. Hempstead, and Carr Schools for instance would require some major investment and stabilization but they could be good options as well.

      • Steve Kluth

        Nice brainstorming. That’s an interesting idea overall, but I don’t want to treat refugees like cattle. I’ve lived in barracks in the Navy. They are really impersonal and potentially dangerous. A better idea would be to convert the building into small apartments, maybe with some shared bathrooms where two apartments share a bath.

        The building you propose has a couple of three story wings. One could be apartments for families while the one facing Academy is made into a community center. The middle section could hold the sex-segregated floors. The church building is also interesting. The back part looks to be an old convent or parsonage (or both), and could also be used for housing or for community purposes. It used to be a Catholic church but the parish was dissolved in the 90’s. Don’t know who is using it now.

        • STLEnginerd

          It’s not about treating them as cattle, it’s about creating a situation that is both livable but also incentivized them to settle into more permanent housing as quickly as possible to make room for another wave.

          It’s also about saving money for other critical services. Like jobs, language classes, food, and civic education, like how to buy a house, or how our tax system works etc.

          Lastly it’s about establishing a critical mass of a community quickly. To build it out as apartment would not only be much more costly, but also much more time consuming.

          I never understand why people consider barracks style housing as Inhumane, unsafe or disrespectful. I had to live in a barracks while in the army and it was fine. BTW I’m not suggesting barracks like on a ship where they stack them 3 high but more traditional army barracks, single bed, wall lockers with locks. Basic but livable and the opportunity to go out and build something better for themselves and their families. I’d expect the average person would be there for 3 months assuming they are being selective about which persons they are bringing in. Young, able bodied, motivated with families, preferably where at least one member speaks and reads English.

        • STLEnginerd

          Oh and according to the city website the church next to 1327 is currently owned by the Hephzibah ministries which is as best I can tell from a web search a Christian religious ministry focused on either homeless children, or abused teenage girls. Don’t know much about it but it sounds like a decent use for the building.

  • Paul

    Sorry..these men need to be FIGHTING ISIS. They should not come here and after the videos on YouTube showing the illegal migrants throwing the food and water back at the Hungarian police and shouting that they would someday take over Europe…I don’t think so….WAKE UP PEOPLE…our men are over there helping free their country while these men run off ?…Makes no sense…and it IS NOT SAFE…

  • Adam

    Holy crap, Buzzfeed!

  • John Warren

    Please make this happen!

  • Robert Myers

    As a St. Louis resident I completely support this idea. Some 60,000 Bosnians are now our neighbors, have helped revitalize our neighborhoods, and have made our community a better place. There is room here for everyone, of all religious faiths. I would welcome Syrian refugees.

    • Charlemagne _

      If you think that the Syrians will behave in the same fashion as the Bosnians, you are in for a rude awakening should this ever happen.

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  • Presbyterian

    There are about 150,000 Syrian American including Steve Jobs, Jerry Seinfeld and Paula Abdul. Interesting statistic, according to Wikipedia: Syrian American men on average made 25% more than all American men.

    Jobs’s dad (biological, not adoptive) was a Muslim from Homs, Syria. Jobs was conceived in Homs.

    We can’t say Syrians haven’t already contributed to our economy.

  • Mark Groth

    Syrian immigrants are already part of St. Louis’ history, and have blended in quite well with their neighbors. Take this account from the 1904 World’s Fair:

    “Although Italo Marchiony, a New York immigrant from Italy, is credited with the invention of the ice cream cone, a similar creation was independently introduced at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair by Ernest A. Hamwi, a Syrian concessionaire. Hamwi was selling a crisp, waffle-like pastry — zalabis — in a booth right next to an ice cream vendor. Because of ice cream’s popularity, the vendor ran out of dishes. Hamwi saw an easy solution to the ice cream vendor’s problem: he quickly rolled one of his wafer-like waffles in the shape of a cone, or cornucopia, and gave it to the ice cream vendor. The cone cooled in a few seconds, the vendor put some ice cream in it, the customers were happy and the cone was on its way to becoming the great American institution that it is today.”


    Now that’s some fresh thinking and outside perspective…something St. Louis needs more than anything.

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  • Pedrosity3

    Great idea, Pastor.

    Except the Syrians the UN are pushing are seeking resettlement for economic reasons.

    Mayor Slay’s family is Christian, by the way. Christian Syrians. The very ones the Obama administration, and apparently the liberal denomination you belong to, have no plans to help.

    By all means, Pastor, bring those Syrians in. Here’s the catch, though: You’re going to pay for them. And when a few of them turn out just as great as the Tsarnaev brothers, we’ll know who to blame.

    • Presbyterian

      Not sure your referent, Pedrosity. I would love to welcome Syrians whether Sunni, Shiite, Alawi, Christian or Druze. I have every Christian church in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq starred in my Google Maps. I’m particularly burdened for the Arab and Assyrian Christians.

      Over ten million Syrians have been displaced — by ISIS and barrel bombs, not by a desire for jobs. There’s plenty of room in St. Louis.

      For the record, though, I’m actually not in the denomination you reference, though I don’t think that’s really the issue here.

    • kathleen7546

      The gov stats themselves show 97% of Syrians coming here are Muslim.

      • Paul


    • Jackie Owens

      Syrian Christians need to be brought in also. I am not for more Muslims in St Louis

    • pleasant pants

      You seem pleasant.

    • BP WEST

      Agree. No refugees.

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  • CoolTolerance

    They are NOT refugees. Be truthful: they are ECONOMIC MIGRANTS. Those who are true refugees are the Christians and those, you don’t want.

  • Pingback: St. Louis Presbyterian minister: Send 60,000 Syrians to St. Louis! We love Arabs « Refugee Resettlement Watch()

  • moe
  • omomma

    Yes, I agree! There’s plenty of room here. Vietnamese and Bosnians have improved our region, Syrians can add to the mix.

  • Alex Devlin

    Great article. Very inspiring. A Twitter bombardment can stir up some talk among leaders. We get enough people talking about it, they’re bound to respond. Slay, McCaskill, and Nixon are good places to start.

  • Presbyterian

    You petition the White House to allow more Syrians to settle in the US by adding your name here:

    • john Meyer

      Why are christians being denied Priority 2 status as a persecuted minority?

  • Bryce

    If we really want this to happen we need to get organized. we need to contact are state reps and Nixon. to start we can just copy the text add something to make in personal and send it.

  • Tony

    Yes, we’ve got room! And I’d change the title of the article to “Syrian refugees are welcome in St Louis” rather than “Send them to St Louis.” Give them at least one choice that is their own.

  • Andy – I think the US State Department is step one.

    • John R

      It is. But I’m not sure if Congress needs to authorize a higher level of admission or not for the country taking in large numbers.

      • Andy

        I don’t know about Congress but I’d imagine it has a lot to do with President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.

  • AwesomeB

    Pst. Moslem means evil one to Muslims.

  • Heather

    Write your Senators, Reps and the President. I think what the US has done so far (1500 refugees I think) is pitiful in the face of this suffering. As you rightly point out we have a rich history of accepting refugees…and given that we as a nation are partly responsible for this crisis, we should be helping even more.

  • Jack Bowe

    What steps can we take as a city to embrace refugees? We’ve got the room, but what would the International Institute or other organizations need to fast-track aid and relocation?

    How was this achieved with our Bosnian population?

    • Matt

      I’m curious about this as well. Is there any way for individuals to push for this, or are there any local institutions currently working to achieve this?

      • John R

        International Institute I believe is the lead organization on such matters; but the key is the State Dept, allowing refugees in to the country for resettlement. From there. they coordinate with local regions. With our refugee assistance infrastructure and success with Bosnian resettlement, I think STL would be a great candidate for a major host.

    • moe

      A lot of help came from President Clinton who pushed downward. There were many cities not trusting and thought negatively about foreigners ( just what we hear today from some candidates ). Clinton added a lot of incentives and St. Louis was in need. Perfect combo.

    • Bryce

      The St.Louis mosaic project might help us with this.

  • Amir Donkovic

    But I agree. St. Louis will grow because of diversity. We should indeed welcome the Syrians.

    • kathleen7546

      No. we must be cautious. spend some time on the site Ctr for the Study of Political Islam. Click statistical Islam and learn. Read Michelle Malkin’s book Invasion to see the awful laxness of the screening on immigrants – 12 years ago! Worse now. Other agendas operate. Like neutralizing the power of this country so we follow the new world agenda more easily. I believe those people are in need. Why not demand Islamic majority countries do it not us. Just what do Muslims do but criticize the west? We helped them in enough wars already. Maybe that is what the wars were really for – pretext for immigrants all over the west. Way more is going on than immigration. Whose purposes are being served I cannot put it all together but…..Come on, it is not simple.

  • Alex P

    I know of 22 relatively empty city blocks in north city that could use an intelligent 21st century solution. Then again, if any of them want to move downtown with me, I’ll gladly give anyone a tour. Maybe the population surge would allow Culinaria to be open 24 hours.

  • YES. Instead of dropping almost a billion dollars on a stadium, think how far that money could go to help resettle refugees in our city.

    • Daron

      Either Vines for mayor!

    • ParallelParker

      The proposal to bring Syrian refugees to St. Louis is an interesting and enlightened one. I am in favor of exploring how that might be done, However, in accomplishing anything the devil is in the details. A common fallacy (and a naive one) in considering all the good things that we could and should do to better the St. Louis region is that there is a bucket with a billion dollars in it that we can dip into improve the schools, hire more police, or bring in Syrian refugees. There is no bucket of discretionary money. That is not how the world works. To effect any of the plans to improve the St. Louis community and do good, each strategy has to be figured out in its own right and executed on its own terms.

      • jhoff1257

        You’re not wrong, but I don’t think Mr. Vines was eluding to their being a big bucket of a billion dollars laying around. I think his point had more to do with this city’s misplaced priorities.

    • JeremyR

      Out of a billion dollars the stadium costs, only about 1/3 comes from the government.

      Half comes from the owner and the NFL (which is why it’s all a moot point, Kroenke has no interest building a stadium here and we need his money), then another $120 million comes from selling PSLs, and the rest is from extending the bonds from the current stadium, which will partially be paid back by the player’s salary (which the city doesn’t really get, but the state does)

      The stadium doesn’t quite pay for itself, but it’s not far from it

    • Pedrosity3

      And where is that billion coming from? Hmm?

  • Amir Donkovic

    Not all Bosnians are Muslim by the way and neither are all Syrians. Not offended, but just be a little careful.

    • Presbyterian

      Agreed that “most” were Muslim. 🙂

      And before the war, over 10% of Syrians were Christians, perhaps over 20% in Lebanon. The Slay family were Maronite Arab Christians. Like the Balkans, the Arab world is very diverse.

    • moe

      Careful of what? I’d rather live next to a Muslim that immigrated to our Country and appreciates our freedoms and way of life than live next to an “American” that doesn’t vote, disregards the Constitution (if they even know it), and trashes their neighborhood while preaching hate under the cover of the Bible.

      • Paul

        OK remember that when your Muslim neighbor starts to take over….most people on here sound just as naive and stupid as the Europeans…who will be a minority in their own countries due to this…..and the problems in Sweden and many other countries that are having extreme problems with these illegals is continually growing….WAKE UP

      • Jackie Owens

        I would rather you do to

    • JeremyR

      Most are though, because if they weren’t, they were killed or persecuted by the ones who were and in the latter case, had to flee decades earlier.

      • Anon

        So, are you saying that you know about the Bosnians than a commenter with both a Bosnian Muslim first name and surname?

        Honestly, what you said made little sense as intermarriage was incredibly common in the former Yugoslavia.

      • Charlemagne _

        Bosnian Muslims make up a minority in that country. Most are Catholic or Orthodox Christians.