One of the country's leading watchdogs of extremist groups, the Southern Poverty Law Center on Nov. 4 published a lengthy article on its website
tying so-called "Patriot" groups such as III Percent Idaho to a tide of Islamophobia in the state.
SPLC detailed a Nov. 1 demonstration at the Idaho Capitol, where III Percenters protested against the College of Southern Idaho Refugee Center, which has been roiled in a monthslong controversy over concerns from some the center could open the door between "hotbeds" of "Islamic extremists" in the Middle East and Idaho.
Specifically, III Percent Idaho fears refugees from war-torn areas like Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria are inadequately screened prior to entering the United States. Once they're here, the group argues, they take up resources like housing assistance, social welfare and other programs at the expense of veterans and other Idahoans in need.
"I understand the sentiment about [it] being a humanitarian effort. However, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have stated numerous times that the refugees coming in from Syria and other failed states cannot be properly vetted," Idaho III Percent spokesman Chris McIntire said during the demonstration.
Critics of the group, including SPLC, call III Percent's arguments thin cover for Islamophobia, xenophobia or racism—claims III Percent staunchly rejects.
Two initiatives that would close the CSI Refugee Center continue to gather signatures ahead of Twin Falls County ballot in May 2016; meanwhile, Idaho Republican Congressman Raul Labrador has co-sponsored HR3314
—the Resettlement Accountability National Security Act of 2015—which would halt all refugee admissions to the U.S. until a thorough accounting of the costs of resettlement can be conducted.
III Percent Idaho made headlines in late September when its attended a forum on the CSI Refugee Center in Twin Falls and, in a subsequent Boise Weekly profile
of the Patriot Movement, the group bucked claims of racism or anti-government extremism.
"They want to paint us as white supremacists, they want to paint us as racists, they want to paint us as these bitter clingers to an archaic document that don't want to move forward, that are culturally closed off, that are intellectually limited. And that's not true," McIntire told BW
Scholars and human rights advocates like Devin Burghart, vice president of the Institute for Research and Education in Human Rights, don't buy it.
"With the III Percenters in particular what you have are Tea Party ideals combined with a kind of Manichean existential threat that says that it's no longer time to engage in politics, but it's time to start preparing for war," Burghart told BW
. "They're going to be the III Percent that serves as the vanguard and overthrows the government that they see as bringing on so much pain."