Bemidji City Council sees large turn out of people against refugee resettlement

The Bemidji City Council had a large turnout of citizens concerned about refugee resettlement in this area.

During the citizens with comments segment of the meeting last night, a handful voiced their concerns, who appeared worried that Bemidji would entertain becoming a refugee resettlement area.

Jason LaValley, of LaValley Industries, expressed his concern that a large influx of refugees would change Bemidji’s culture.

“I just heard so much about it, I’ve witnessed it in other areas near our region,” said LaValley. “It’s been conflictive (sic). Crime rates have raised (sic) and everything, and I think it’s going to change our culture.”

“I love where we live,” he added. “I don’t have a problem with other folks from other areas, but if you move in 2,000 of them, you’re going to have problems, it’s going to be different.”

The item, an executive order issued by the Trump Administration, is a matter to be determined by states and local governments, which appear to mean county governments.

“Section 6(d) of Executive Order 13780 of March 6, 2017 (Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States), directed the Secretary of State to determine the extent to which, consistent with applicable law, State and local jurisdictions could have greater involvement in the process of determining the placement or resettlement of refugees in their jurisdiction, and to devise a proposal to promote such involvement,” the order, dated Sept. 2019, states.

The order continues with: “I have consulted with the Secretary of State and determined that, with limited exceptions, the Federal Government, as an exercise of its broad discretion concerning refugee placement accorded to it by the Constitution and the Immigration and Nationality Act, should resettle refugees only in those jurisdictions in which both the State and local governments have consented to receive refugees under the Department of State’s Reception and Placement Program.”

Mayor of Bemidji Rita Albrecht stated that the rumors about it being a city issue were untrue.

Rita Albrecht. Photo courtesy of the City of Bemidji.

“There has been no discussion by me or any other council member, by anyone in this community that I know of other than those putting this message out there, that we would be entertaining any idea of moving any refugees here, opening any new refugee settlement, providing housing for 1,000, 2,000, 100, 200 or any number of Syrian or Somali refugees,” said Albrecht. “It is absolute made up stuff that someone else has said.”

The Beltrami County Board is scheduled to discuss the item, which is on the agenda, during their regular meeting this evening.

Since this is an agenda item, there will not be an opportunity for citizens to address the topic during the citizens concerns portion of the meeting, and no public hearing has been set on the matter.

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