Refugee resettlement is on the agenda for Tuesday’s Goodhue County Committee of the Whole meeting.

This conversation is due to a presidential executive order that, according to county staff’s report on the topic, “requires local governments to provide written consent to the federal government prior to any refugees being resettled in the county.”

[LINGO WATCH: The Committee of the Whole is made up of all five Goodhue County commissioners. The meetings, typically held before regular County Board meetings, provide time for general discussions of topics. No motions for formal action can be taken by the board during a Committee of the Whole meeting.]

This executive order will go into effect in June.

Refugee resettlement is nothing new to Minnesota; The Refugee Act was passed in 1980 and was meant to help refugees settling throughout the country to quickly reach economic self-sufficiency, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

AGENDA: Committee of the Whole - Jan. 7, 2020 4 P.M.

The Minnesota Department of Health records the number of refugees resettled in the state each year. In 2015 that number was 2,244. The year 2016 saw the most refugees resettled in five years with 3,186. In 2018, the total number of refugees was down to 818. The Department of Health has not yet published the final number of refugees resettled in Minnesota in 2019, however it appears that the total will be closer to 2018 than other years. By the end of September 2019, only 775 people had been resettled in the state.

With the hundreds to thousands of people coming to Minnesota each year, two refugees have been resettled in Goodhue County since 2009:

  • One was from Haiti in 2010
  • and the other was from Iraq in 2011.

It is likely that Goodhue County will not see an increase in refugees in the next year because President Donald Trump’s executive order puts a ceiling of refugees to be resettled at 18,000 during the fiscal year of 2020. This is the lowest limit since The Refugee Act was passed.

Commissioner comment

Three of the five county commissioners were able to give a rapid response to a reporter’s request for comment on the conversation of resettlement.

Commissioner Linda Flanders explained that until after the committee meeting on Tuesday she does not have enough information “about needs or ramifications to respond with a concrete statement.”

County Board Chair Brad Anderson wrote about refugee resettlement:

“My perspective is first going to consider the oath of office I have taken and determine that the action on this issue is aligned with the elements included in the U.S. Constitution and the Minnesota Constitution. I also am considering why the avenue to make a change to law through a democratic process at the federal level was not used and what message Goodhue County is making by making that change at a local level. That process was averted for whatever reason and when that happens we lose the voice of the people elected to set the direction of our democracy. I will listen to the information presented in the Committee of the Whole and we will propose the action we think Goodhue County should take.”

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Commissioner Paul Drotos voiced support for the Refugee Resettlement Act. He explained to a reporter:

“First of all, I think it’s a good program, I think it expresses our compassion and our ability to take in new people into our communities.”

Drotos went on to emphasize that he thinks the program has worked and that he believes it to be “really a sincerely good program.”

The commissioners will decide how they will move forward on the topic during the Committee of the Whole meeting. During the County Board meeting that follows on Tuesday a new county board president will be selected.

The commissioners and county staff stress that this decision is only about refugees, not all immigrants.

What's next

The Committee of the Whole will meet in the county board room at 4 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 7