Last Thursday, the Minnesota House rejected an amendment to HF3467 that would have directed the Office of the Legislative Auditor to conduct independent third-party financial audits of federal, state, local, and nonprofit spending related to refugee resettlement costs and other services provided to refugees in Minnesota by a 94-36 split (p. 7828, Journal of the House).
UPDATE: This isn't the first time Drazkowski brought legislation hostile to New Americans to the Minnesota House. In 2010, we reported that Draz chose Cinco de Mayo to unveil his version of "The Arizona Immigration Act" or SB 1070. Much of the Arizona anti-immigration law was later struck down by the Supreme Court. In a 2011 report, Attacking the Constitution: State Legislators for Legal Immigration & the Anti-Immigrant Movement, the Southern Poverty Law Center noted Drazkowski's membership in "State Legislators for Legal Immigration (SLLI), an organization that specializes in mounting legislative attacks on immigrants in states around the country."
In 2010, Drazkowski's campaign website's endorsement page touted thumbs up from Minnesota Minuteman Project (MINNSIR) and USA Border Alert, a visit to the Internet Wayback Machine reveals. But like former Minuteman Ron Branstner, Draz seems to have switched from attacking Latinos to picking on refugees. Lovely. [end update].
The vote reflects the growing scrutiny of anti-refugee sentiment in Minnesota. While some residents cling to the conspiracy theories surrounding resettlement, their notions are being challenged across the state.
Kern fails to snatch Emmer's endorsement
One incident that reflects the pushback? At the beginning of February, one-trick pony (she fears Muslims) and former St. Cloud Times Community Columnist AJ Kern announced a bid to challenge Sixth District Congressman Tom Emmer for the Republican endorsement.
While the launch was widely reported at the time, it faded with such a whimper that Emmer's first-ballot endorsement on April 23, 2016 was noted on the MNGOP's CD6 website and few other places.
In the April 17 Star Tribune article, Anti-Muslim speaking circuit runs through rural Minnesota, Kern was mentioned as one of the circuit riders, not as a political candidate. Kern raised $3283 in the roughly two months of the first quarter she was in the race, according her FEC quarterly fundraising report.
There were a few tweets about the final score:
#CD6 endorsement results: Tom Emmer 212, AJ Kern 119.— Kelly Gunderson (@talkette) April 23, 2016
Debating the resettlement audit
Similarly, the only substantial coverage of the Drakowski amendment was published in the St. Cloud Times, in part because of a blistering challenge on the House floor from fellow Republican, St. Cloud state representative Jim Knoblach.
Here's an excerpt from his interrogation of Draz in session (we've embedded the entire debate later in this post:
The St. Cloud Times' Kristi Marohn reports in Knoblach argues against requiring refugee audit:
St. Cloud Rep. Jim Knoblach was among state lawmakers who spoke out on the House floor against a failed amendment that would have required an audit of costs related to resettling refugees.
Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, offered the amendment Thursday night during a lengthy debate on a health and human services, state government finance and public safety bill. Drazkowski had proposed the audit earlier in the session as a bill, but it did not receive a hearing.
The amendment would have directed the legislative auditor to contract with vendors to conduct independent financial audits of federal, state, local and nonprofit spending related to refugee resettlement costs and other services provided to refugees in Minnesota. It failed on a 36-94 vote.
Drazkowski argued that nonprofit organizations such as Lutheran Social Service receive federal funding to resettle refugees from all over the world.
"They do this, the federal government does, without ever consulting the Legislature, without consulting the county boards or the city councils about the costs involved with that program and with helping these people become resettled, (acclimated) in communities and the costs that are associated with them," Drazkowski said.
He noted that earlier this month, the Stearns County board passed a resolution of support for the bill.
Several DFL legislators spoke against the amendment. Rep. Jim Davnie of Minneapolis called it "unbalanced" because it doesn't include the contributions refugees make.
"You look only at the cost of resettlement and not the benefit to our community," Davnie said. "You forget, apparently, that these refugees pay taxes. They pay income taxes, they pay sales taxes, they pay property taxes — just like those of us who were born here." . . .
Knoblach said he's on the board of directors of the St. Cloud Salvation Army, whose food shelf and homeless shelter occasionally serve refugees. He asked whether the Salvation Army would be audited, or the Catholic Church.
"Every homeless shelter, every food shelf, every women’s shelter, every sexual assault center that’s ever had a refugee go to it, every nonprofit that’s ever given some money to a refugee could be subject to an audit for, let’s say, the last 15 years,” Knoblach said.
That doesn't include federal, state and local spending by school districts, counties and cities, he said.
"I think this is going to be extremely expensive, extremely intrusive, and I am not going to vote for it," Knoblach said. He also said it should include "both sides of the ledger," including taxes paid by refugees and not just costs.
Peg Flanagan wins twitter
The best comment by a legislator on the Drazkowski amendment took place off the floor. St. Louis Park DFLer Peggy Flanagan, DFL-St. Louis Park,, an enrolled member of White Earth Nation, tweeted:
Perhaps the audit regarding refugee resettlement should go all the way back to 1491. #mnleg— Peggy Flanagan (@peggyflanagan) April 29, 2016
A few notes on the full debate
Here's the full debate. A couple of points to ponder: in his introduction of the amendment, Draz implies a groundswell of agreement with his amendment among local government, mentioning Stearns County's resolution and the support of the Kandiyohi County Board. While the former is true, a review of Kandiyohi County Board's agenda, minutes and board packets reveals no discussion of the audit scheme.
Instead, we suspect that Draz had Bob Enos's summer 2015 public comment period rant [correction: the county board has no public comment period, according to the West Central Tribune] As we noted in Rejected by Willmar voters but shared by Draz & Bennett: Bob Enos continues anti-refugee rants, Enos hasn't been elected to any office in Minnesota. The gentleman from Goodhue County shouldn't mistakenly mislead his colleagues.
Second, Jerry Hertaus, R-Greenfield, rises to defend the amendment by citing the latest iteration of the immigration reduction group Center for Immigration Studies' reporting on immigrant welfare use, in an attempt to deny that refugees contribute to the state's economy. It's a strategy made infamous in Minnesota by former Governor Tim Pawlenty in attempting to demonize undocumented workers; the pushback then resembles points made by Davnie, Knoblach and others last Thursday.
The libertarian Cato Institute also examined CIS's claims here and here. The Immigration Council's scrutiny can be found here. Other CIS tall tales are examined here by Right Wing Watch.
We'll be back with a look about the vote on this amendment, Minnesota's legislative districts and the fall election in second post.
Screengrab: Steve Drazkowski responding to Knoblach's questions.
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