Wilmot Collins

HELENA, MT- Last week Montana's lone congressional voice, Congressman Matt Rosendale, tweeted that he did not support the relocation of Afghan refugees to Montana.

The tweet said simply, “I strongly oppose the resettlement of these Afghan nationals in Montana.”

Helena’s Mayor Wilmot Collins is getting some national attention for pushing back on the congressman’s tweet.

That tweet has 18,000 comments on it and the congressman explained his position in a slew of tweets, explaining that normally it takes a year to vet refugees.

But Mayor Collins says the tweet was only made to provoke negative feelings.

The mayor's response reads “This former refugee cannot wait to welcome them to Montana. Hopefully they’ll get involved in our communities and enrich our lives with their experiences and culture. Who knows, maybe one day some of them will even run for office!”

In the 90s Wilmot Collins came to Helena as a Liberian war refugee. He says he chose Helena because his wife was a student at Carroll College.

“The people of Helena made it easy they made it easy by welcoming me,” Collins said, “That was the biggest hurdle because I didn’t know how people would receive me, I’m coming from a chaotic situation, a war situation, but when I arrived I saw people arms open to me, that was very humbling.”

Collins explained that the people coming to Montana from Afghanistan are going to go through culture shock but eventually will fall in love with Montana as he did.

“You just open up because you know that they’re welcome in was sincere,” Collins said, “So that’s why I was able to open up my arms and flourish because of how I was made to feel when I arrived here.”

Collins said he became involved in the community quickly and that was crucial to his success. He became involved in a church, a choir, and even by playing rec league baseball.

He says the refugees will evolve and grow into their new homes, eventually, they will learn what it means to be a Montanan, and Montana will be better because of their cultural contributions.

The mayor says the refugees will work through with an organization in Missoula, and then will be able to move anywhere they like, throughout the country, or they can stay.

Collins said if they choose to leave Missoula, Helena welcomes them.

“If they want to come to Helena my arms are open and I am sure the people of Helena will receive them well just as I was received,” Collins said, “they are compassionate people they are good people.”

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