Wis. alderman questions readiness for refugees

  • Associated Press
  • January 17, 2014 - 2:35 PM

APPLETON, Wis. — An Appleton alderman is drawing the ire of other city officials for his resolution critiquing the region's preparation for 75 refugees arriving from Congo, Iraq and Myanmar.

Alderman Jeff Jirschele authored a resolution with tough language aimed at World Relief Fox Valley, the Oshkosh-based group shepherding the resettlement, according to Post-Crescent Media ( ).

He said the refugees hadn't "been vetted" and called for a suspension of all city efforts in the relocation until the potential impact of their arrival has been assessed.

"I'm worried about these people and our social safety net when they arrive," Jirschele said. "These are real people and real lives ... we have no room to flounder on housing or medical care despite the best intentions of the groups involved."

This is the third year for resettlement operations for World Relief, which has already moved 174 individuals to the Fox Valley, largely from Burma.

The group works aggressively to find jobs for the adult refugees, said Myriam Mwizerwa, the Oshkosh office director.

Mayor Tim Hanna said he spoke for all city hall departments in criticizing both the tone and content of Jirschele's resolution.

"This has us all a little worked up because I think there's more happening to get ready than people understand," Hanna said. "We've held two meetings and have another scheduled Friday that more than 50 people have attended."

Hanna said a long list of community partners are preparing, including Goodwill, school districts, churches, health care providers and county agencies.

The tinge of judgment in the resolution was also concerning, he said.

"This is not the message we want to send as a welcoming, inclusive community," Hanna said. "There are some undertones that make assumptions about these people as being poor or a drain on us, but quite the opposite. These are the diverse people I want in our city."

Hanna also pointed to the successful Hmong resettlement to the Fox Valley.

Alderman Tim Trauger said he was shocked by the resolution's language, saying it didn't reflect the rest of the council or city. He vowed to fight it in the community and economic development committee, where he holds a seat.

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