St. Cloud councilor proposes temporary stop on refugees

The mayor has called the proposal 'unconstitutional.'

The St. Cloud City Council will discuss a proposal placing a temporary stop on refugees resettling in the city, even though the mayor says it’s unconstitutional.

Fourth Ward councilor Jeff Johnson submitted this week a resolution calling for a moratorium on refugee resettlement until Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, one of six nonprofits helping refugees resettle in the state, proves it’s complying with federal laws, the St. Cloud Times reports.

The resolution has been condemned by the Council of Islamic Relations Minnesota (CAIR-MN), with executive director Jaylani Hussein describing it as a “despicable, racist, xenophobic, Islamaphobic and ill-informed motion targeting refugees.”

It launched a petition calling on the council to vote no on Johnson’s proposal when it goes before its next meeting on Monday.

“Discrimination and bigotry towards refugees should not have a place in the St. Cloud City Council.”

In any event, it’s looking likely that the resolution won’t pass, with Mayor Dave Kleis telling the St. Cloud Times that it probably violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

And the Star Tribune reports that the city’s other six council members are not in support of the resolution, saying the city has no responsibility over refugee resettlement.

“I think it’s unconstitutional,” councilor John Libert told the newspaper. “It’s inappropriate. I’m ashamed of him trying to pull it forward … we can’t tell people they can’t come here.”

“Our job is really public safety, infrastructure, parks and utilities,” councilor Steve Laraway added.

St. Cloud has a proportionally large refugee population with around 10 percent of residents hailing from Somalia following an influx in the 2000s. This has stoked anti-immigrant tensions in the city.

Members of the Somali community spoke with CityPages in 2016 for the piece “St. Cloud is the worst place in Minnesota to be Somali,” with several noting they have been on the receiving end of racist comments and attacks.

In 2015, more than 100 Somali high students walked out of class in a demonstration at anti-Somali bullying they had experienced in the city’s high schools.

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