If "New Americans" Aren't A Burden On Their Host Communities, Prove It


“The charge that the decades-long influx of refugees into Fargo has been a burden on taxpayers doesn’t stand up to honest scrutiny,” the Fargo Forum claimed in an editorial over the weekend. “In fact, it’s a myth.”

If that’s true, then wonderful. We can all be thankful that refugees settled in the Fargo area by Lutheran Social Services are bringing an infusion of cultural diversity, not to mention much-needed labor in a market where labor shortages are the norm.

Unfortunately we have anecdotes which suggest otherwise. News stories about “massive” fights between refugee groups, and claims from some that these refugees are disproportionately dependent on government assistance programs.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]…when the Forum and other defenders of Lutheran Social Services say these problems are a “myth,” the response should be prove it.[/mks_pullquote]

Now, these anecdotes might be just that. Anecdotes. Or they could be indicative of a larger problem.

So when the Forum and other defenders of Lutheran Social Services say these problems are a “myth,” the response should be prove it.

Make good with some data. Let’s see if we can’t resolve some of the angst around these resettlement programs with a dose of transparency. Lutheran Social Services should track and report to the state and local governments how many “new Americans” are involved in crimes within, say, the first five years of settling here. They should also track the number who are signed up for state and federal assistance programs, and what cost that represents to the taxpayers.

This seems, to me, to be a reasonable request. Too much of the debate over refugee settlement has taken place in an information vacuum. At the very least, we could be doing more to inform the debate.

Unfortunately those who support the refugee resettlement are quick to condemn any calls for transparency or accountability as coming from “nativists and xenophobes.”

Maybe that’s true in some instance – certainly some critics of the refugee settlements have resorted to ugly language and accusations – but racism is hardly the only motivation for concern. If “new Americans” are coming into our communities and committing crimes, or using up inordinate amounts of public resources, then that means the settlement program is being run poorly and should be corrected.

But before we arrive at that conclusion, let’s have Lutheran Social Services and the federal government make good with the data.