Refugee Report From Fargo’s Human Relations Commission Reveals Very Little

Jessica Thomasson, director of Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, speaks to the Fargo City Commission Monday, Oct. 10, 2016, explaining some of the expenses and procedures of refugee resettlement in the Fargo area. Dave Wallis / The Forum

The problem with the debate of refugee resettlement here in North Dakota is that we really don’t have a lot of data on its impacts.

But even the push to address that information vacuum has proved politically harrowing. Those who want to explore the issue are accused of bigotry by strident left wing ideologues.

Fargo has seen the largest number of refugees over the year, and city leaders there did ask their Human Relations Commission to study the issue.

There was a meeting today to present the resulting report.

You can read a copy of it in full below.

When you’re done reading it, you probably won’t know much more about refugee resettlement in the Fargo area than you do now.

The report itself, once you scroll past a lot of the pretty pictures and lists of participants and other pablum, is pretty short. It acknowledges that there isn’t a lot of data available, and then describes information gleaned mostly from a National Academy of Sciences study and some anecdotes.

We learn that refugees, much like anyone else, work jobs and earn money and then spend that money in the local economy. Which is great! But not exactly revelatory information.

The one thing the report does illustrate is just how little information is available on refugee resettlement.

The “findings” section of the report speaks volume, because it’s mostly about all the ways in which the commission was not able to access data on refugees:

Perhaps this is where policymakers should focus. Maybe we need to institute some sort of voluntary survey for refugees and encourage them to participate as a way to better understand both the costs and benefits of resettlement.

There has to be a way around these limitations.

Better data means better policies.

The angst over refugee resettlement existed in our region long before Donald Trump decided to run for President. This isn’t something new. We’ve been having these debates for a while. They aren’t going away.

Which is why I’m surprised each time it’s revealed just how little effort we’ve put into understanding resettlement.

Here’s the full report. Prepare to be underwhelmed:

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 1-2pm weekdays.

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