The resettlement of foreign refugees in the Fargo area has been creating consternation among some residents there for a long time. Recently an announcement to local officials from Lutheran Social Services stating that there would be a surge in settling refugees in coming months – first reported here on SAB – reignited the debate.
Local Fargo area officials I spoke to said they were frustrated with LSS over the announcement, saying that they aren’t being given enough time to prepare for the influx of students and other people who will need services. Which seems like a reasonable complaint to me. For instance, telling local school officials that they will be getting some refugee students who have language barriers and other needs just a few weeks before school starts isn’t very fair.
There’s got to be a better way to do this.
But now LSS is trying to claim that the initial report of this resettlement – I’m assuming they’re referring to my report – wasn’t accurate:
It was started just days after a false report came out saying hundreds of refugees were resettling in the Fargo area in the coming month due to pressure from the White House.
Lutheran Social Services CEO tells us that is not true. She expects 60 immigrants in August and 60 in September.
“We’ve resettled an average of 400 per year for the last 20 years. We’re not looking to add more as the population grows it’s about making sure we can do a good job with the families who come to live in our communities can be a good stable place for them to raise their families,” says Lutheran Social Services CEO Jessica Thomasson.
So LSS is saying that there was a “false report” about the surge of refugees coming due to pressure from the White House, but I can quote directly from an email sent out by Saurav Dahal, Community Liaison for Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota (see the full email below).
“There has been an immense push from the White House to meet this year’s quota before the end of this federal fiscal year; therefore we should be expecting more than average number of arrivals for the next 2 months as well as the months of October and November,” Dahal wrote in an email sent out to Fargo and West Fargo officials dated July 24 of this year.
“A majority of arrivals will be family-ties ( 75-80%), so ND expects to resettle a huge number of Bhutanese followed by Somali, some Iraqi and Congolese,” Dahal continued.
So KVRR reports, based on their interview with LSS CEO Jessica Thomasson, that it’s “false” to say that the Fargo area will see a surge of refugees settled in the coming weeks, and that the reason is pressure from the White House. And yet, Dahal’s email says the opposite.
I think this is one of the reason so many people in the Fargo area are upset with Lutheran Social Services over this refugee issue. The group doesn’t seem to be operating in an open and transparent way. Transitioning refugees into any community is hard work, but it gets harder when the community in question doesn’t feel like it has an honest partner the group bringing in the refugees.
I think it’s fair to say that some of the opposition to the settlement of refugees in the Fargo area has to do with paranoia and hatred of “outsiders,” some of which rises to the level of overt racism. Much of the discussion about this issue online has been ugly, to say the least. That said, what’s not fair is dismissing all criticism of Lutheran Social Services and its activities as racism and lies.
Clearly, the group can and should be doing better.
You can read the full email below.