The 3-2 vote on refugee resettlement is now raising questions.
One of those being ‘What now?’
Over 400 people filled a local Burleigh County middle school for four hours, taking to the podium and voicing their opinions, ultimately resulting in a 3 to 2 vote to approve the continuation of the refugee resettlement program.
“My great grandparents immigrated from Ireland. Everybody has immigrated from somewhere. And I would hope that the generation that is coming up that will be the leaders of tomorrow will be as accepting of these people as I have been. Because like I say we all come from someplace,” shared Commissioner Kathleen Jones.
Jones was one of three elected officials to vote in favor of allowing refugees to continue settling in North Dakota.
Refugees have been resettling in North Dakota through Lutheran Social Services for 30 years, but refugees finding a safe haven in the state goes back much further than that.
“We had the Irish come to build the railroads. We had the Germans come to build the buildings. We have what you call a German from Russia come when they were being persecuted over certain things. We have a tremendous population. All over,” said Commissioner Jones.
Despite the history, many who spoke out last night had concerns, wondering where resettlement funding comes from.
Shirley Dykshoorn, the vice president of Humanitarian Services for Lutheran Social Services, said there is federal funding specifically for refugees.
“It’s not like I could choose to take the dollars that are that being extended for resettlement and use it to assist homeless individuals in Bismarck. It doesn’t work that way because it is a federal program,” said Dykshoorn.
Now that a decision has been made, leaders look toward a productive future with refugees.
Both LSS and Burleigh County have agreed to continue talking, keeping each other up to date on how many refugees are coming to the region, where they are living and what they are doing to become a part of the community.
“We want to be able to sit down with social service in advance and say okay, how many do you think you’ll be bringing in,” said Commissioner Jones.
During the meeting, a motion was also made to limit the number of refugees accepted in Burleigh County to 25 at most in 2020.
Commissioner Jones said she’s received over 160 thank you emails for her vote yesterday in Burleigh County’s refugee resettlement decision.
Only five percent of the refugees coming to North Dakota come to Burleigh County.
According to federal law, the issue of refugee resettlement will go before Burleigh County Commissioners annually.