ND legislators propose bill allowing for a halt to refugee resettlement

Published: Jan. 17, 2017 at 2:32 PM CST
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There’s another new bill in the North Dakota legislature, but this one would give the state a greater hand in the refugee resettlement process. It would also allow the Governor to put a halt to the resettlement program.

House Bill 1427 is “a bill to provide for the determination of refugee absorptive capacity”. The bill lays out all of the sections of a community that need to be evaluated to determine how many refugees a certain place can take in. For example, if this bill passes, entities in Fargo such as social services, medical facilities, law enforcement, the school district, public housing, the labor market and more would be assessed on how many refugees they can support settling.

The bill continues to lay out other duties that will be required for “any refugee resettlement organization” including meeting at least quarterly with local governments, school districts, and law enforcement. The bill also says a memorandum of understanding “with each agency providing refugee resettlement services in this state” must be entered into. It would require meetings, preparing a plan for the initial placement of refugees and a plan for continued communication.

Furthermore, the bill says by the end of January each year, information for the previous year including how much money was provided in cash assistance programs, requirements for enrollment in such programs, a report documenting how many refugees failed to comply with the requirements, “a certification that women have the same opportunities as men” to receive services, any reports of crimes committed by a refugee settled in North Dakota, and reports of crimes committed against refugees settled here. That includes child abuse, female genital mutilation, domestic abuse, sex or human trafficking and terrorism.

House Bill 1427 also would require a report outlining the total number of refugees resettled, a breakdown of refugees by age group and demographic, the public programs refugees have applied for or in which refugees are enrolled, the number enrolled in public schools, those accessing ELL programs, a breakdown of education levels by gender and other information.

The bill ends saying local governments will be allowed to apply for a moratorium on resettlement if they can’t meet the requirements. It also says the Governor of North Dakota may issue a moratorium to the program too through executive order.

It’s been reported that North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum has said that filing a lawsuit against the federal government in regards to the refugee resettlement program is an option to be considered. He has said in the past that the federal government did not have the authority to appoint Lutheran Social Services to govern the resettlement program in the state.

Representative Chris Olson says this is all in the interest of transparency. He says he would like to gather clear, relevant information so that citizens and communities can make an informed decision about allowing the program or not.

Click the link to view the bill’s text.