A small group of armed protesters peacefully demonstrated outside of the Islamic Center of Irving, Texas, on Sat., Feb. 20, contending the welfare and well-being of U.S. military veterans should come before the relocation of Syrian refugees into Texas communities.
The group, called the Bureau of American Islamic Relations (BAIR), rallied for “Veterans Before Refugees.” The Facebook event page stated their objections as: “We will not allow Syrian refugees to come here from a war zone while thousands of veterans are sleeping on the streets and dying waiting for the VA healthcare they were promised when they took the oath.”
On Saturday, the Islamic Center of Irving held its “Compassion Day,” described as welcoming “those refugees in the DFW area who have fled their home countries for a better life in the United States.”
According to the Dallas Morning News, Irving mosque leader Imam Zia Sheikh said the mosque partnered with refugee organizations bringing refugees from countries, not only those from Syria, to the luncheon to make them “feel at home.”
“We have people here that need our help,” BAIR founder David Wright III told the Dallas newspaper, seemingly alluding to Texas veterans who suffer with homelessness, mental illness, health issues, and abject poverty. Many of the BAIR group are veterans, including John Usener, a father of four, who served eight tours in Iraq, and is state captain for the BAIR-affiliated Three Percenters Texas.
Wright also said he wanted to see how many of the expected refugees were actually women and children, according to the Dallas Morning News. A Facebook screenshot indicated the mosque anticipated approximately 200 refugees to attend.
BAIR waved American flags and, according to the Dallas newspaper; one of its members held a sign that read: “Say No to Syrian refugees.” A lone counter-protester faced off against the group with a sign: “Refugees Welcome” followed by “Texas is big enough for EVERYONE, Y’ALL!!!”
In January, Wright posted a photo online that supported his beliefs that veterans’ needs should supersede those of the Syrian refugees. It read: “VETS before Muslim Refugees.” Wright believed the post landed him in Facebook jail as it was tagged: “We removed the post below because it doesn’t follow the Facebook Community Standards.”
The 2015 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress found more than one in 10 adults experiencing homelessness nationally was a veteran, breaking down as 47,725 or 11 percent of the nation’s 436,921 homeless adults. According to AHAR, of those, 31,505 homeless veterans were sheltered while 16,220 remained unsheltered. Texas accounted for 5 percent of U.S. homeless veteran population.
Last year, Wright took a lot of heat from the mainstream media for publishing the names and addresses of Muslims and Muslim supporters who spoke at an Irving city council meeting to oppose a proposed American Laws for American Courts (ALAC) resolution. Wright did not create the list. The publicly posted list on the City of Irving’s website also included the names and addresses of those residents who spoke in support of the resolution.
BAIR has held protests at this and other Dallas areas mosques without incident. Irving became a hotspot last year for protests and tensions following the ‘Clock Boy’ incident when then 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed’s family claimed Islamophobia was behind the teen’s arrest for bringing to school a homemade clock in a box mistaken for a hoax bomb by school officials.
Breitbart Texas reached out to BAIR for further comment but has not heard back yet.