Refugee resettlement in the Fargo/Moorhead area has been controversial for decades now, but there hasn’t been a lot of efforts to quantify just how controversial. The folks at Valley News Live have done that, and they found majority opposition.
You can read the full polling memo below, which was produced by Mason-Dixon Polling out of Florida. Here’s the headline result:
Note that there is majority opposition to refugee resettlement across every demographic except for self-described Democrats, but even there you have more than a third of respondents saying they oppose resettlement. Of course, this is just one poll, and any one poll can be an outlier. It’s always better to have multiple polls producing multiple data points to illuminate the issue. That said, this jibes with my perception of attitudes.
I must say that it saddens me that so many here are in opposition to refugee resettlement, but it also doesn’t surprise me given how Lutheran Social Services handles resettlement in North Dakota. The group refuses to be transparent about impacts on local budgets and crime, and when anyone even hints at criticism of resettlement the LSS supporters start throwing around words like “racist” and “xenophobe.”
Yet there is plenty of frustration from local officials who aren’t racists, who aren’t xenophobes, but none the less are fed up with being locked out from information about resettlement. Case in point, this from a meeting of the Cass County Social Services Board last night:
As refugee resettlement continues to be a major part of life in the area, it was a topic on the agenda for Monday’s Cass County Social Service Board Meeting. North Dakota Senator Judy Lee and Lutheran Social Services were invited to attend, to discuss questions about the resettlement program. But only Sen. Lee showed up, LSS was nowhere to be found. The commissioners had plenty of questions about the program, but Sen. Lee had few answers. They were really questions for Lutheran Social Services and many appeared to walk away unsatisfied.
“I mean I’m really insulted by the fact that while here’s the information you requested but we don’t think you can have this information.”
What’s the impact? How does resettlement affect our wallets, our schools, our crime, our social services which are already bursting at the seams?
“So we asked the question and you know we get a lot of answers but it’s really hard to nail down precisely what some of those costs might be,” said Ken Pawluk, Cass County Commissioner.
Note that the intent of this meeting wasn’t to oppose refugee resettlement, but rather to understand its impacts on Cass County. Yet Lutheran Social Services didn’t do these local officials the courtesy of showing up.
In an update to the article a LSS official claims she had a conflict, but that seems like a thin excuse. The group has to now how controversial refugee resettlement has become, and their best line of defense is to make their case transparently and with plenty of data.
That they resist speaks volumes.