Many criticize commissioners’ decision to not accept refugees

About forty residents of the county addressed the Beltrami Board of Commissioners last night during the citizens with business portion of the meeting. While several who commented were supportive of the commissioner’s decision two weeks ago to not accept refugees, many were critical of the commissioners’ decision.

Beyond the accusations of xenophobia and racism of board members, many, such as Jeremiah Liend of Turtle River, were concerned that public hearing rules were violated when Commissioner Craig Gaasvig asked for a show of hands during that crowded meeting, when no public comments were allowed to be accepted.

Jeremiah Liend, Turtle River, addresses the board of commissioners during citizen comment period on Jan. 21.

“If we were actually reckless, ignorant and absurd enough to base our policies upon a room full of people raising hands, and I was a bad person, who wanted to ram laws down people’s throats without them having any say, then I would make it my business to have every vote by hand raising,” said Liend. “I would fill every meeting with my closest allies. I would have them bully and berate and harass any opposition away. Instead of making sound policy, we would make policy that solely benefited us.

Another concern raised was the threat of a financial boycott. Many on social media and in the Bemidji Pioneer’s letters to the editor have claimed they will no longer come to area on their vacations, or send their children to attend Bemidji State University.

A federal judge has blocked President Trump’s Executive Order that granted counties and states the opportunity to opt out of refugee resettlement, but many in attendance wished the commissioners would rescind their vote anyway.

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