Some of you readers have been emailing me concerned about what has been described as a big influx of refugees into North Dakota in coming months. I’ve done some digging, and it turns out there’s some validity to the rumors.
According to an email forwarded by a SAB reader (see below), several North Dakota communities can expect what is described as a “huge” influx of refugees thanks to a federal program.
“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,” a July 24 email sent out by Saurav Dahal of Lutheran Social Services states.
Refugee resettlement is a federal program which Lutheran Social Services oversees in North Dakota through its New Americans initiative. The email from Dahal was sent to local city and school officials in the impacted communities.
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]School officials I’ve spoken to, who do not wish to be named, say they’re concerned about such a large influx into their communities on such short notice.[/mks_pullquote]
School officials I’ve spoken to, who do not wish to be named, say they’re concerned about such a large influx into their communities on such short notice. Refugee students, given language barriers and other issues, put a big strain on local school resources I’m told. While the number of refugees for fiscal year 2015 is only about 10 percent more than previous years, the timing is the issue.
Dahal’s email describes slower refugee processing earlier this year and a “big push” by the Obama administration to hit refugee goals by the end of the year.
According to estimates in the email, by the end of the federal fiscal year on September 30 LSS expects to have settled 315-350 refugees in the Fargo area, 85-100 individuals in Grand Forks, and 40- 50 individuals in Bismarck.
The federal government resettles about 70,000 refugees annually in the United States, with about 450 per year coming to North Dakota (about over 70 percent of them to the Fargo area). In June of 2014 WDAY reported that over 4,000 refugees from 35 different countries had been settled in Fargo alone since 2004.
In the 2015 federal fiscal year North Dakota is expected to end up with about 500 refugees.
Refugees in Fargo, specifically, have become something of a hot button issue. There have long been grumblings about refugees being ill-prepared to live in the community – struggling with unemployment and crime and language barriers – and in June there was a “massive” fight among refugee groups in Fargo’s Lindenwood Park.
“You know when you get different new American groups from different ethnic backgrounds from different areas, sometimes they come here with those cultural disputes between the groups, and likely that’s what we are seeing here,” Lt. Michael Mitchell with the Fargo Police Department told Valley News Live.