LSS Responds to Bill that Could Lead to Refugee Ban in North Dakota

A bill being proposed in the North Dakota House of Representatives if passed would increase data gathered on refugees and would allow for a future ban on resettlement in the state

A bill being proposed in the North Dakota House of Representatives could give the state power to temporarily ban refugees.

Refugee resettlement is generally under the jurisdiction of the federal government and Lutheran Social Services (LSS).

LSS said they have concerns.

The organization resettled 558 refugees in North Dakota last year.

The number is determined by LSS and the federal government but this bill would give the state and local government more of an influence on how many refugees are allowed in.

LSS said that would unfairly single out a group of people.

“Treating refugees differently that they almost have to be pre–qualified to be able to come into a community when they do have a legal status,” said Shirley Dykshoorn, who is the Vice President for Senior and Humanitarian Services at LSS.

The bill would also require statistics be gathered on refugees, such as employment rates, wages and crime rates.

“Why would you need to actually track every refugee who is legally able to be in this country?” Dykshoorn asked.

LSS is straying away from taking a hard stance on this bill, but local city officials are more verbal about their opinions.

Fargo City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn said he advised the sponsor of the bill, State Representative Chris Olson, while he was drafting it.

“I think the main thing is we want to find out what are we doing well and what could we be doing better,” said Piepkorn.

When asked about the possibility of a temporary ban on refugees, he said that option isn’t likely to be used.

“As far as a moratorium that would be much further down the road… if things were not going well,” said Piepkorn.

Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney said he thinks the idea of collecting refugee crime statistics as proposed by the bill, is unfounded.

“We don’t have any higher arrests or trouble with crimes with the refugees than any other part of the population,” said Mahoney.

That claim is backed up by national studies such as the American Community Survey, which is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Researchers here found incarceration rates of immigrants, for example, males, aged 18-39, to be less than half of that of domestically born citizens of males of a similar age group.

Still, Piepkorn said he thinks local governments need more say on who comes in to their communities.

“That gives us an opportunity to have more input. Right now we don’t have any input at all,” said Piepkorn.

The bill is still in the works and if there’s one thing Piepkorn and LSS can agree on, it’s that some of the specifics in the bill are subject to change.

Officials with LSS say they’re in the process of reviewing the bill and raising concerns to state legislators.

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