Minnesota counties discuss refugee resettlement, with different results

Beltrami County voted against accepting refugees in the county, a first in Minnesota.
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Bemidji City Hall

Minnesota counties have been meeting this week to decide whether they will continue to welcome refugees to their respective areas.

While only 848 refugees were resettled in Minnesota in 2019, the subject has suddenly come under the microscope after an executive order made by President Donald Trump gave cities and counties the ability to block refugees from settling in their boundaries.

While Gov. Tim Walz has said that "the inn is not full" in Minnesota, saying that the state would continue to welcome those fleeing oppression, local officials in more GOP-leaning areas have a different view.

On Tuesday, Beltrami County became the first local authority to officially vote to block refugee resettlement by a vote of 3-2 by its Board of Commissioners.

The vote was taken at a packed meeting in Bemidji, and is largely symbolic given that under the Trump order, counties have to "opt in" to receive refugees, and because the county has had no refugees resettled there at any time in the past five years.

Per the Star Tribune's Maya Rao, one of those voting in favor of refugee resettlement was Commissioner Tim Sumner, a member of the Red Lake tribe, who pointed out the irony in the county telling resettlers they're not welcome in an area that was previously home to Native Americans.

The decision by Beltrami County was not replicated in other Minnesota counties however. MPR News notes that Murray County and Nobles County in southwest Minnesota both voted in favor of accepting refugees.

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They follow the likes of Blue Earth, Kandiyohi, Nicollet and Twin Cities counties including Hennepin who will continue to accept refugees.

In St. Louis County, a similarly contentious debate over refugee resettlement ended with the board voting by 4-3 to table their vote until May on whether to allow refugee resettlement.

The delay will allow the board more time to gather information with regards to resettlement, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

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