Dodge County Refugee Decision Made for 2020
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By Gretta Becay

At their Jan. 14 meeting, the Dodge County Commissioners consented to Executive Order 13888, “Enhancing State and Local Involvement in Refugee Resettlement”. This consent paves the way for the county to receive federal funds that help refugees if they were to be resettled in Dodge County. Without the consent, refugees could move to the county after their initial settlement, but no federal funds would follow them.

At the Committee of the Whole meeting, Amy Caron, Public Health Director for Dodge and Steele Counties and Jane Hardwick, MnPrairie Executive Director answered commissioners’ questions concerning Public Health and Human Services.

The women explained that Dodge County has not had any refugees settle in the county in recent history.

Information provided to the commissioners indicated that in fiscal year 2019, the U.S. admitted 30,000 refugees which included 848 within Minnesota. For fiscal year 2020, the admissions cap was recently set at 18,000 for the entire U.S.

In comparison, over 100,000 refugees resettled to the U.S. each year during the 1990’s.

There are no 2020 budgeted dollars by MnPrairie or Public Health for refugee resettlement specific programs.

A vote of consent is really just maintaining the status quo, explained the women.

They explained that the refugees have their health checked before they are resettled including receiving the appropriate vaccinations.

These programs have been in place for years. But now, because of an Executive Order by President Trump in September, local governments must provide written consent to the federal government before any refugee may be resettled or any federal funding paid to a jurisdiction beginning in June 2020.

County Administrator Jim Elmquist provided information to the commissioners explaining the background for the decision.  

“This will be an annual process per the Executive Order. As of Jan. 9, the Southeast counties of Goodhue, Olmsted, Steele and Mower have consented. As of today, the only county in the State of Minnesota to deny resettlement is Beltrami.

Of note, a ‘refugee’ is one who has left their home and has not been permanently resettled in another country. The person has been persecuted or has a well-founded fear of persecution because of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. The person may be resettled by international organizations and governments to a third country to obtain permanent status and protection. Refugees do not apply for resettlement themselves. In contrast, an ‘asylee’ self-petitions for protection from the government of the country in which they arrive under similar characteristics.

A refugee must pass through the U.S. Refugee Admission Program which includes vetting by both the State Department and the FBI.  Some refugees from certain countries may be subject to further scrutiny by the federal government. Refugees who have not met specific criteria, have criminal records, or are considered to be security risks are not resettled in the U.S. Before the vetting process begins it can take years before a refugee can come to the United States. Refugees also receive health screenings and cultural orientations before they’re matched with a resettlement group that helps find a place for them to successfully settle and integrate.

There are five local resettlement affiliates (RA’s) in Minnesota that provide initial and ongoing resettlement assistance to the refugees, known as ‘Reception and Placement.’

They are, Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota, Catholic Charities of Southern Minnesota, Arrive Ministries, Minnesota Council of Churches, and International Institute of Minnesota. 

The Executive Order only pertains to ‘primary resettlement’ which is a refugee's initial location in the United States.

Refugees are eligible to work in the United States and are required to pay taxes. 

Resettlement agencies must submit 2020 placement plans to the U.S. Department of State by Jan. 21. If a jurisdiction does not offer consent before this date, it is possible that refugees may not be resettled there this year.