Grand Forks Herald: Stop Calling Refugee Resettlement Skeptics Racists


Reggie Tarr sits for a portrait in his office in downtown Grand Forks, ND on Tuesday, September 13, 2016. (Joshua Komer/Grand Forks Herald)

The Grand Forks Herald today has a really, really good editorial about the refugee resettlement debate.

It’s both a national and local issue. Here in North Dakota lawmakers are debating HB1427 which would require a quantification of the local costs of refugee resettlement and allow officials in the state to pause resettlement if they feel the costs are too high.

It’s good policy, though the Herald rightly points out that any accounting of resettlement costs should include benefits too such as jobs filled. But the proposal, introduced by Rep. Chris Olson of West Fargo, has met with the sort of rote accusations of racism from the left.

The Herald says that’s hogwash:

Refugee-resettlement isn’t just a flashpoint in East Coast cities and airports. It’s showing up in conversations and policy proposals in Bismarck, Fargo, several cities in Minnesota—and Grand Forks.

Residents on all sides should listen and learn. For both the skeptics and the supporters have important messages; and if they’d only start talking to rather than past each other—while banning the word “racism” from the conversation—something good might actually result.

This is sound advice. I hope lawmakers considering amending Olson’s legislation so that it counts both the costs and benefits of resettlement, and then I hope they pass it.

But as for removing rote accusations of racism from the debate? That seems unlikely to happen.

During the Obama years our friends on the left convinced themselves that they were the ones on the “right side of history.”

“We are the ones we have been waiting for,” President Obama told them. They took the message to heart, and now accept as an article of faith that only bigots and extremists could possibly disagree with them.

Are some people opposed to refugees xenophobes and racists? I don’t doubt it. But the despicable motivations of a few do not necessarily invalidate the the larger point.

The are real costs, and potentially real risks, to refugee resettlement. Talking about those issues is not an act of bigotry, as much as some would like you to believe that.