Back in September, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order that stated:
“… it is the policy of the United States to cooperate and consult with State and local governments, to take into account the preferences of State governments, and to provide a pathway for refugees to become self-sufficient. These policies support each other. Close cooperation with State and local governments ensures that refugees are resettled in communities that are eager and equipped to support their successful integration into American society and the labor force.” (Emphasis Added)
As you can see, the Executive Order was an acknowledgement of the need to have affected state and local governments on board when resettling refugees.
In response, Governor Doug Burgum issued a letter on behalf of the State of North Dakota stating:
“We are grateful for the administration’s consideration of states’ rights in determining policies and actions that impact what happens within our own borders. Our administration takes very seriously the duty to protect the security and prosperity of our residents.
“North Dakota has had success at integrating refugees who have become responsible citizens and productive members of the workforce. Therefore, with ongoing diligence, North Dakota consents to receive resettlement refugees, in conjunction with the continued assent and cooperation of local jurisdictions in our state.” (Emphasis Added)
As you’re likely aware, the organization responsible for resettlement in our state is Lutheran Social Services (LSS). As you’ll see in this report from the Department of Homeland Security, North Dakota joined Nebraska and Washington as tops in the nation for resettling the most refugees per capita.
According to this document, LSS resettled a total of 8,389 refugees in North Dakota from 1997 – 2017 (about 400 per year). This November 19th article from the Grand Forks Herald says that over the course of the last two years, those numbers have dipped to an additional 282.
Yet, with President Trump’s Executive Order and Governor Burgum’s letter of consent both in place, it seems all that is presently needed for LSS to continue resettling refugees in communities across the Peace Garden State is approval from “local jurisdictions”.
An example of this comes in the form of this agenda for Monday’s Burleigh County Commission Meeting where consideration is set to be given to a “Request of Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota for written consent for refugee resettlement.” This alone leaves people with far more questions than there are answers.
How many refugees are we talking about?
Where do they come from?
Which community or communities within Burleigh County will they be resettled in?
Where will they be housed?
Are there children involved? If so, are the schools prepared for them?
We could go on. But suffice it to say, I think the people of Burleigh County had better contact their county commissioners and start asking some questions.
I get it. This is a political hot potato. Those who even dare ask questions are sometimes openly scoffed at. Just ask former State Representative Chris Olson (R – Fargo), who proposed House Bill 1427 during the 2017 Legislative Session.
As Valley News Live reported at the time, HB 1427 simply sought to:
“… ‘provide for the determination of refugee absorptive capacity’, meaning various aspects of a given community were to be evaluated to find out how many refugees they can support. This includes things like school districts, county social services, medical facilities and more.”
It was a logical approach — to any rational person — about a very serious issue. Unfortunately, some folks aren’t very rational. No, for them, emotion is the best way to win political debate. So, in the end, Rep. Olson was demonized by some and his bill was demoted to a study. And, as it turns out, some may argue a less than stellar one at that.
I think the people of Burleigh County deserve some answers. That doesn’t make them prejudice or racist— at all. And for those who’d like to ask the questions, I’d recommend contacting your county commissioners. You can find their contact information here.
I’d also recommend attending Monday’s meeting at 5pm, if you can. It will be held in the Tom Baker Meeting Room of the City\County Office Building at 221 North 5th Street in Bismarck. For those unable to attend in person, you can find the links to live video and radio coverage by clicking here.
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