Lutheran Social Services Isn't Busting Any "Myths" About Refugee Resettlement


Yesterday Jessica Thomasson, CEO of Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, set out to bust some “myths” about refugee resettlement at an event organized by the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce.

For instance, Thomasson tried to address the claim that refugees add to crime in North Dakota by citing numbers related to immigration at the national level:

“Today, we are going to be clearing the air,” Jessica Thomasson, CEO of Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, told a crowd of about 200 people at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Fargo.

Among the notions that Thomasson sought to debunk was the idea that refugees are responsible for increases in crime. “We know there is no correlation,” she said, citing a study that showed: “Immigrants are less likely to commit serious crimes or be behind bars than the native-born population.”

The concerns critics of LSS resettlement of refugees in North Dakota have is their impact on crime in North Dakota. Thomasson is talking about the impact of immigration (both legal and illegal) on the nation. Those aren’t the same things.

Thomasson also addressed the impact of refugees on government services by…providing really no information at all.

To refute the claim that refugees are a drain on government services, Thomasson stressed that they are legal immigrants who work and pay taxes. In North Dakota, where there’s a labor shortage, many refugees hold health care, retail, hospitality and manufacturing jobs, she said. “Everyone is working who can be working,” she said.

Thomasson said that when refugees arrive here, her organization finds them an apartment and gives them household furnishings. She said they have to pay rent, and if they do seek housing assistance, they are not moved to the top of the waiting list.

If you don’t believe that LSS is making a pretty thin defense of refugee resettlement, check out the “Myths Busted” page on their website. All of the information is about the national impact of immigration. None of the information is about the specific impact of refugee resettlement on North Dakota and its local communities like Fargo, Grand Forks, and Bismarck.

Put simply, Thomasson and LSS are being evasive, looking to deflect criticism by citing data that really has no bearing on the issue at hand. And when local officials want LSS to give them more details about the specific, local impacts of refugee resettlement LSS doesn’t show up for the meeting.

What critics are worried about is the impact on North Dakota of refugee resettlement orchestrated by LSS. Critics want to know if LSS is doing a good job integrating these refugees into our cities. We want to know that the refugees can be self sufficient and law-abiding members of the communities they’re placed in.

LSS, on the other hand, doesn’t seem interested in answering those questions. And I think that has a lot to do with why a majority of Fargo/Moorhead area citizens oppose refugee resettlement. Not because all of that majority are opposed to refugees coming here, but because LSS simply isn’t doing a good job with being transparent with the public.