Hiding behind the veil of claiming to give local leaders more control, President Trump’s executive order requiring all U.S. counties to vote on whether to allow refugee resettlement is a transparent attempt to stir up anti-refugee sentiment.
We already know of his opposition to allowing people into this country for whatever reason and now he’s made up requirements to support his stance.
In Blue Earth and Nicollet counties, that plan backfired. Both County Boards last week voted to accept refugees, and rightly so.
The vote, in reality, is largely a symbolic gesture because not many refugees are flowing into the region these days. The order also applies only to the county of origin that refugees enter, and southern Minnesota is not usually the first location refugees come to.
Even so, it’s encouraging to see local county commissioners not only vote to welcome refugees but to speak up against not doing so. Calling refugees “new Americans,” Nicollet County Commissioner Jack Kolars said they follow in the footsteps of past groups of refugees and immigrants who often faced discrimination and persecution when they arrived and went on to be productive citizens.
Of the two local boards, only one commissioner voted against the resolution, Nicollet County Commissioner John Luepke. Representing a chiefly rural area, he said his constituents wanted him to vote against refugee settlement and said he believed the public cost of assisting refugees as well as other immigrants is too high.
Perhaps Luepke and those constituents are unaware that a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2017 draft report determined refugee-owned businesses generated $4.6 billion and refugees contributed $63 billion more in tax revenue than they received in public benefits in the preceding decade. And perhaps Luepke is unaware that Nicollet County had just two refugees arrive in the past two years, according to the Minnesota Council of Churches Refugee Services.
Minnesota state demographer Susan Brower has said that the future of the state’s growth heavily relies on immigration because we will need that population for long-term economic viability. Nearly 60 percent of new Minnesotans in 2018, or 10,718 people, were immigrants, according to census numbers.
South-central Minnesota already is experiencing a worker shortage, so recognizing that refugees and immigrants contribute financially is a factor that communities must take into account right now as well as farther down the road.
County boards that support refugees are not only taking the moral high ground of offering safe harbor to people from often war-torn countries, they are helping Minnesota be a more diverse, financially stable place to live for all its residents.