WASHINGTON — Filmmaker and political activist Michael Moore is peeved that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is vowing to block Syrian refugees from settling in his home state. So on Friday, Moore announced that he’s opening up his apartment to refugees anyway — and set up a website for people around the country to do the same.
“I just wanted to let you know that, contrary to your declaration of denying Syrian refugees a home in our state of Michigan, I myself am going to defy your ban and will offer MY home in Traverse City, Michigan, to those very Syrian refugees you’ve decided to keep out,” Moore says in an open letter to Snyder.
“I’m disappointed in you, Governor Snyder, for your heartless and un-Christian actions,” he added. “What you’ve done is anti-American.”
Snyder is one of about two dozen governors who’ve said they’ll block Syrian refugees from settling in their states. The leaders argue that the current refugee screening process isn’t tough enough and worry that terrorists will exploit the system.
Despite their bluster, governors don’t have the authority to bar Syrian refugees from their states. The power to accept refugees lies exclusively with the federal government, and the process for those seeking asylum is already extremely tough. The Obama administration plans to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees this fiscal year, all of whom will undergo security screenings that typically take 18 to 24 months.
A Snyder spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Beyond his letter, Moore created a hashtag, #MyHomeIsOpen, and a website for people to sign up to take in Syrian refugees after they arrive in the country. As of Monday afternoon, 1,485 people already offered up rooms in their homes.
“I’m asking anyone who can, anyone who has spare rooms in their homes or an empty apartment, cottage, or whatever, to make it available for Syrian and Iraqi refugees for between six months and a year while they’re being settled in the U.S.,” he said.
The filmmaker said he’s already contacted Secretary of State John Kerry to let the department know that his 700-square-foot apartment in Traverse City is available for a Syrian couple, rent-free, for six months to a year. He said it’s not fancy, but “it’s got cable, wi-fi and a new dishwasher! Also, no haters live on my floor!”
For those who sign up to help via his website, Moore said their names and contact information will be kept private and only shared with the refugee agencies overseen by the Obama administration. Typically, when refugees arrive in the country, resettlement agencies try to place them somewhere where they have a personal connection. If they don’t, they could be placed anywhere in the country. Each refugee gets a stipend of about $1,000 to cover his or her first three months, and local organizations try to set up a suitable apartment for people before they arrive.
“THIS is what we want the ‘American way’ to be from now on,” Moore said. “My family came here from Ireland in the 1800s. I know what it was like for them. … That I would have the chance to do the same thing for a new family of immigrants 150 years later is an honor.”
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