DECATUR, Ga – The neighborhood surrounding a school that is home to one of DeKalb County’s biggest immigrant populations went out of its way this weekend to calm any anti-refugee fears those children may be experiencing.
Over the weekend, several handmade signs were planted along the front of the International Community School in Medlock Park in Decatur. The signs ranged from statements such as “No matter where you are from, we are glad you are here” to “Don’t be afraid.”
One member of the community who lives a few blocks from the school spoke with 11Alive Monday and called it a "beautifully kind gesture."
"(It) Shows that we care about them," said Julie Smith. "Enough people who care about the rights of all Americans showed support. There was not a shred of anger in it, just generosity.”
Smith said she's been living in the area near the school since July and the signs make her "immensely proud of my neighborhood."
Following the signs being placed, Superintendent Dr. R. Stephen Green issued a video statement in which he called the diversity of the school and the DeKalb School District at large a strength.
"We strongly support the diversity of our school system and we greatly value our role in supporting our immigrant population," he said in the video. "Our role as school leaders is to help the learning in our schools become love. The love for a new place, the love for our way of life, and ultimately our love for one another." (Click here to watch the full statement.)
This all comes on the heels of President Donald Trump's signing an executive order which suspends entry of all refugees to the U.S. for 120 days, halts admission of refugees from Syria indefinitely and bars entry for three months to residents from the predominantly Muslim countries of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.
Trump’s action has sparked continuing protests around the nation, including at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry, whose city neighbors the International School, is worried about the ban’s impact on his city’s local economy.
“Clarkston has been welcoming refugees for 35 years,” he said, “and we’re one of the 50 safest cities in Georgia. “We also had between 800 and 1,000 vacant apartment units in the last fiscal year, and a large part of our economy is based around our international clientele.
“This ban is going to impact our ability to fill those vacant units.”
Companies like Delta Air Lines, Coca-Cola and other Atlanta corporate giants whose businesses span the globe could also be adversely impacted by the immigration ban.
“These companies, and hundreds of others in the metro area, have significant global outreach, with employees and consultants who are in and out of the country all of the time,” said Tom Smith, an assistant professor of finance at Emory University. “If Coca-Cola needs to send someone from one of the banned countries to another part of the world, how can it be sure that this person is going to get back into the U.S.?”
Terry also counters concerns that refugees commit more violent crimes than any other ethnic or international group.
“We have large groups of people from many different countries living in a one-square-mile city, and there has been no history of domestic or international terror attacks connected to them,” Terry said.
Clarkston is home to a blighted condominium complex called Brannen Hill, which has been called “the worst community in America.”
In November, DeKalb Superior Court Judge Gregory Adams signed an order granting the county authorization to demolish and clean up several buildings at the complex.
Brannon Hill is home to numerous immigrants and refugees, and has gained national attention for its harsh conditions. In 2015, the Deen Media Center called Brannen Hill the worst community in America because of its high crime, unsafe structures and mounting debris.