What Are the Supporters of Refugee Resettlement So Afraid Of?

Fargo (N.D) City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn stand outside City Hall on Thursday, June 12, 2014. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Last week Fargo City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn asked for a thorough review of the costs to the City of Fargo from refugee resettlement in that community. Piepkorn estimates the cost to the city is in the millions, but wants a formal review.

It didn’t seem like a terribly controversial request to me. Fargo has taken in more refugees than any other community in North Dakota, and our state leads the nation in per-capita resettlement. As such, refugee resettlement has become something of a hot-button issue in our region, and central to that debate are the costs to taxpayers associated with the resettlement.

We know that there are costs, after all, though each side of the debate has their own ideas about how high or how low they are. Piepkorn’s request might help inform at least that facet of the fight over refugees. If there’s one thing we can (or, at least, should) all agree on, it’s that a better sort of debate happens when it’s informed by factual information.

…it seems foolish and petulant to throw a fit over a request to detail the costs of that resettlement.

So why then are liberal observers of this debate so wrapped around the axle about it?

Last week my colleague, liberal columnist Mike McFeely, jumped all over Piepkorn because of the request. This weekend the Fargo Forum editorial board also belittled Piepkorn in an editorial. There have been plenty of social media messages and letters to the editor angry over the request as well.

What are these people so afraid of?

Maybe the review Piepkorn has requested will show that refugee resettlement isn’t nearly so expensive as critics think. Or maybe it will reveal that there are more costs related to it than anyone realizes. Either way, I hope we get a clear picture when it’s completed, not a distorted one because those reporting the facts and figures are fearful of being accused of racism when/if they provide information inconvenient for resettlement supporters.

Personally, I support resettlement. I like the idea of people leaving behind the troubles in other parts of the world and finding peace and prosperity here in America. I like the idea of them becoming Americans. It’s not always an easy transition for the refugees or the members of the host community. Sometimes it can take a generation or two for both groups to find comity.

But ultimately resettlement is a net positive for all involved.

That said, it seems foolish and petulant to throw a fit over a request to detail the costs of that resettlement.

Those throwing it should grow up.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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