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St. Louis County delays refugee resettlement vote

Only one refugee has been placed in the county since 2011.
Port of Duluth-Superior

After months of debate and public input, the St. Louis County Board did not vote on refugee resettlement Tuesday.

An executive order by President Donald Trump requires counties to give prior approval before refugees can resettle in an area. The board once again delayed the item on refugee resettlement and sent it back to administration, having tabled the item in January.

Before the vote, more than 90 people gave input via email or phone. Only one refugee has been placed in the county since 2011.

The item was delayed by a vote of 4-3. Commissioner Beth Olson urged the body to take a vote on the item and not delay it.

“We need to county on our leaders to lead. To tell us we are welcome here even when it doesn’t feel like it,” Olson said. “That our lives are not only worthy, but our differences are an asset to this county. That is something that leaders like all of us on the county board can do.”

Board Chair Mike Jugovich, who voted to delay the item, said discussion on refugee resettlement in the county shows a need to correct misinformation. Jugovich said he’s heard incorrect statements about the religion of refugees or where they would be housed.

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“We need people to be educated on it,” Jugovich said. “I’ve been working to get the word out since January. I feel goo that I took the time, but clearly my message didn’t get through.”

Refugee resettlement has proven contentious at the county level since Trump’s executive order. In January, Beltrami County became the first local authority to block refugee resettlement. Counties that have voted to accept refugees include Murray, Nobles, Blue Earth, Kandiyohi, Nicollet and Hennepin counties.  

In 2019, 848 refugees were resettled in Minnesota. 

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