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NYT article shines a light on anti-refugee movement in St. Cloud

St. Cloud has been a common landing spot for refugees fleeing war-torn countries.

Minnesota is in the national news on Thursday, with the New York Times running a story focusing on a anti-refugee movement in St. Cloud.

The story is trending in Minnesota, with the headline capturing one of the standout quotes from the piece: "These people aren't coming from Norway": Refugees in a Minnesota city face a backlash."

The subjects of the story are members of C-Cubed – Concerned Community Citizens – which was formed in the wake of the St. Cloud City Council voting down a resolution to temporarily halt refugee resettlement.

The group won two seats on the city council in November's elections, providing legitimacy to an anti-refugee movement that has followed an increase in refugees to the central Minnesota city, many of them from East Africa.

Interviewed in the article is former university professor John Palmer, who helped lead the C-Cubed movement and who, according to the NYT, is a regular reader of Islamophobia conspiracy sites such as Jihadwatch.org.

The concerns from Palmer and other members of C-Cubed is that white Americans are being "replaced," with the NYT noting that the share of nonwhite residents in St. Cloud has grown to 18 percent in recent years.

One member of C-Cubed, Liz Baklaich, is quoted as telling the newspaper: "If we start changing our way of life to accommodate where they came from, guess what happens to our country?"

The quote that features in the headline of the article comes from Kim Crockett, a vice president at right-wing Minnesota think-tank the Center of the American Experiment, who claims America is at "breaking point."

"These aren’t people coming from Norway, let’s put it that way. These people are very visible."

Also attracting much comment is a quote from a woman who declined to give her name, who claims the city has "no-go zones" that includes a shopping mall and the Beaver Island Trail.

Describing the actions of Somali-Americans, she said: "They were just – they were just walking around."

The contents of the article have drawn condemnation from those who see Minnesota as a state that should be friendly to refugees.

Mukhtar M. Ibrahim, a former MPR and Star Tribune journalist who now runs the Sahan Times in the Twin Cities, which covers the immigrant communities, tweeted: "I mean, any reporter can go to St. Cloud and do a story like this, but what separates this story from the rest are how residents are open to expressing their... fears."

Another commenting is Minnesota Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein (D–Columbia Heights), herself an SCSU graduate, who tweeted: "My dad was a former St. Cloud City Attorney and Stearns County Attorney- he rejoiced when SCSU hired its 1st professor of color. 

"Of this, he would be ashamed and heartbroken."

The City of St. Cloud itself re-affirmed in 2017 that it would be welcoming to refugees, after it rejected the proposal to halt refugee resettlement.

The motion submitted by Council Member Jeff Goerger said that the city would be "welcoming to all people without regard to race, ethnicity, religion or country of origin," MPR reported.

"It also states St. Cloud has the capacity to provide city services to new residents without impacting the city or its quality of life."

You can read the full NYT piece here.

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