Checking out the Central Minnesota Tea Party web site, we noticed this Warning!:
Morrison County to be the recipient of 1000 Islamic refugees from Somalia! All American communities like Willmar and St. Cloud have been inundated, now they have their sights set on this community. Please read and consider the following . . .
By executive order, President Obama announced that he will dramatically increase the number of Muslim immigrants for a total of 100,000 per year for the years 2012-2016. Did you know that Little Falls is planned as the main OVERFLOW for these folks into Public Housing? There is currently a large number of applications for this housing at our local HRA which is verified! After Little Falls, who’s next? Brainerd, Wadena, Long Prairie?
And of course, there will be Jumping Jihadists:
Our government has no idea who they let into our country. The FBI admits under oath they have no idea who these people are, and currently do not have the resources to handle the ISIS/jihadist threat currently in the Muslim community. . . . .
Oh my. This level of panic certainly calls for a fact check.
First, while the post is unsigned, Bluestem has seem some of that rhetoric before in a letter to the editors of the Morrison County Record, Brantsner story missed the mark, which concludes:
They [people at Minuteman Ron Branstner's talk] want their community to remain a safe place, and they understand that the FBI has absolutely no idea who these people are that are coming into our country. — Chad Olson, Ft. Ripley
According to Whoisology and ICann Whois, Olson is the administrator of the Central Minnesota Tea Party website. Perhaps "The FBI admits under oath they have no idea who these people are" and "the FBI has absolutely no idea who these people are" are simply stock phrases that all anti-refugee activists repeat, but there's a good chance that it's Olson talking on the post.
Refugees to be resettled in Morrison County?
Whomever the author is, he or she echoes a claim that the Morrison County Record reported California Minuteman Ron Branstner made at an anti-refugre event in July:
Brantsner told the group that if refugees were resettled to the city of Little Falls, residents likely wouldn’t know, because it is all done “in stealth.”
He told them to call the school district to see whether refugees or immigrants had enrolled as one way to find out.
Bluestem contacted the Minnesota Department of Human Services, which operates the Resettlement Programs Office. A spokesperson told us that no refugees had been resettled in Morrison County, although it is possible Somali people have moved there on their own after being originally settled elsewhere.
Nor were any of the National Voluntary Agencies that handle resettlement in Minnesota working to place anyone in Morrison County.
While anti-refugee activist fear-monger about "secondary resettlement," there's nothing stopping the free movement of people living legally within the United States. Nor is this a new phenomenon in the country or state. Perhaps the most recent example of secondary migration by refugees to and in Minnesota is that provided by Twin Cities Hmong communities, which drew family and clan members from other states and from rural Minnesota, as the State Department's policy in the 1970s was to scatter Hmong refugees between urban and rural communities.
We contacted Morrison County about the rumor, and Brad Vold, Director of Social Services for Morrison County, returned our called. He wasn't aware of any efforts to resettle refugees in Morrison County, observing that it would be quite difficult to sneak a group of 1000 people of any sort into the Central Minnesota community.
According to the county's homepage, 32,872 people live in Morrison County, so he has a point. Little Falls? According to figures released by the United States Census Bureau, 8,232 people resided in Little Falls in 2013. Sneaking 1000 New Americans into the town might prove tricky.
Public housing takeover?
According to Vold, there's a two-year waiting list for vouchers for subsidized housing in Morrison County, which might be the "currently a large number of applications for this housing at our local HRA which is verified!" that the post mentions, but the waiting list isn't for 1,000 refugees.
Vold said that the part-time director for the county HRA had recently mentioned the two-year waiting list at a county budget meeting; while he didn't remember the exact number of families on the waiting list, but thought it was between 50 and 80 households.
In short, for all the fearmongering going on, the claim doesn't appear to have merit. It does seem to be part of a national wave of anti-refugee sentiment.
Texas Congressman Brian Babin has introduced a bill to "pause" admission of refugees to the United States, while Donald Trump's immigration policy plan, plumbed in-depth by the explainers at Vox here, would require refugees and asylum recipients (who are legal residents eligible for public assistance "and many of them use it as they often lack the skills they'd need to find employment in the US — especially when they first arrive here from a refugee camp or their home countries") to demonstate "that they can pay for their own housing, healthcare and other needs before coming to the U.S."
Other anti-refugee activism in the region: the case of Fargo
The latest article shared by the Central Minnesota Tea Party, Fargo, ND (and everywhere else) to be slammed with new refugees in next seven weeks, is crossposted from Refugee Resettlement Watch. The post cites a report by WDAY which featured a clickbait headline blurred the distinction between total refugee numbers for the fiscal year and those coming in the next two months, making it appear that the area might be flooded with new residents.
LSS said last week it expects to resettle more than 100 additional refugees in Fargo-Moorhead by October. It expects to resettle a total of about 400 new Americans in Fargo-Moorhead this year. It typically resettles 500 people statewide each year, and this year should be no different, according to [CEO of Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, Jessica] Thomasson.
The petition does not explain why the placement of refugees in Fargo should end. But some signers wrote that too many resources are being spent on refugees rather than on people who already live here.
She rejected the claim that refugees are a burden on the community, saying that moving to the U.S. is "an opportunity they take very seriously."
"The people we work with are employed very quickly, they work very hard," Thomasson said.
In fact, the resettlement of refugees benefits the local economy, which is plagued by a workforce shortage, said Lisa Gulland-Nelson of the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corp.
She said it was good to "bring in refugees who are willing to work, supporting them and connecting them with the resources that they need so that they can integrate into the community and really get jobs."
We share that sentiment, rather than the fears of newcomers. According to the article, LLS has been resettling refugees in the area since 1946. Thomasson took the high road in refusing to speculate about the motives of those signing the petition:
She declined to say if she believed the petitioners were motivated by racism or bigotry, saying instead that "these are really emotional and often very personal conversations for people. They have very strong beliefs and strong opinions."
Photo: Little Falls, Minnesota.
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