The Beltrami County Board of Commissioners voted 3 to 2 to not allow refugees to resettle in the county. There was no public hearing or comments from the public accepted prior to the vote, but a large crowd attended the meeting.
Commissioner Tim Sumner as well as Commissioner Reed Olson voted against the motion, which was made by Commissioner Richard Anderson to not consent to allowing refugee resettlement in the county. Anderson, and Commissioners Craig Gaasvig and Jim Lucachick voted aye.
Sumner, prior to the vote, said, “We all have origin stories. Most of the people here today are resettlers. It seems un-American to say, ‘you’re not welcome here.'”
Lucachick said, “It doesn’t feel prudent to bring refugees into our county when we need to take care of all the issues we have now.”
Olson assured the crowd, which was well over 100 in attendance, that “people are not waiting in the wings to come here.” Many jeers of disbelief followed Olson’s comment.
Beltrami County is likely the first county in Minnesota to vote no on the Executive Order issued by the Trump Administration in late September.
State media has already picked up on the vote, with attention from the Minnesota House of Representatives majority leader Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley), born in Bemidji, who says counties that need state money, paid in part by immigrant taxes, should consider that when taking such action.
MN counties that want state aid funded in part by taxes paid by immigrants and refugees should reconsider votes like these. Beltrami County received a state bailout in 2019 but 3 commissioners vote like they are an island. https://t.co/IlOU6SdGhU
— Ryan Winkler (@_RyanWinkler) January 7, 2020
Representative Matt Grossell (R-Clearbrook) responded to Winkler with this, in a release:
“President Trump empowered counties to have a voice in the decision making process for the federal refugee resettlement program. Tonight, Beltrami County exercised that option and Majority Leader Winkler responded by threatening to cut off state funding because Beltrami County didn’t vote the way he wanted. This is a disturbing and arrogant reaction from Metro Democrats who have no business telling our county commissioners how to vote.”
Counties everywhere in the nation must respond by Jan. 31 in order for nonprofits and social service groups to have enough time to have the resources in place for refugee resettlement. A non-vote on the issue is the same as a no-vote.
See the full executive order here.