Dispelling a misconception

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Last night, St. Cloud City Councilmember George Hontos made a motion “for a study session on refugee resettlement.” When St. Cloud City Council President Carol Lewis voted against the motion, she said that the subject was “a federal issue, it may have some state implications, but we really have nothing we can say.”

A loyal reader of LFR contacted me to correct Ms. Lewis’ information. According to this loyal reader of LFR, the federal statute that deals with the Refugee Act of 1980, which “created The Federal Refugee Resettlement Program”, is quite specific. 8 U.S.C. § 1522(a)(2)(A) states that “The Director and the Federal agency administering subsection (b)(1), shall consult regularly (not less often than quarterly) with State and local governments and private nonprofit voluntary agencies concerning the sponsorship process and the intended distribution of refugees among the States and localities before their placement in those States and localities.”

Further, the statute states that “The Director shall develop and implement, in consultation with representatives of voluntary agencies and State and local governments, policies and strategies for the placement and resettlement of refugees within the United States.”

In summation, the State Department is required to regularly consult with local governments prior to the resettlement of refugees. Based on what the federal government and county and city governments have shared with the public, those consultations haven’t happened.

Let’s be clear, though. It’s entirely possible that the State Department has consulted with the various NPOs about the program. That’s possible because the various levels of government have been as transparent as a brick wall.

Later in the statute, it says “Such policies and strategies, to the extent practicable and except under such unusual circumstances as the Director may recognize, shall- provide for a mechanism whereby representatives of local affiliates of voluntary agencies regularly (not less often than quarterly) meet with representatives of State and local governments to plan and coordinate in advance of their arrival the appropriate placement of refugees among the various States and localities, and
(iii) take into account-
(I) the proportion of refugees and comparable entrants in the population in the area,
(II) the availability of employment opportunities, affordable housing, and public and private resources (including educational, health care, and mental health services) for refugees in the area,”

In other words, municipal and county governments and school boards must meet with the federal government and put together a plan that doesn’t overtax “educational, health care, and mental health services.” Additionally, this plan must be in place prior to the first refugee is resettled in a city.

The city of St. Cloud hasn’t shared any information on these required plans. That’s possibly because there isn’t a plan. That’s possibly because they’re just being exceptionally secretive. At this point, we don’t have proof that a plan was ever put in place. This video (from Tennessee) seems to indicate that the federal government isn’t taking their obligations seriously:

Technorati: Refugee Resettlement Program, State Department, City Council, School Board, Refugee Act of 1980, Carol Lewis, School Board, Nonprofit Organizations, Transparency, Accountability

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