Expressing concern about “the overall quality of life” for his city’s residents, a St. Cloud City Council member is asking his colleagues to consider placing limits on refugee resettlement.
Council Member Jeff Johnson said Tuesday that he plans to propose a resolution at the council’s Nov. 6 meeting recommending a moratorium be placed on the resettlement of more refugees until the city gets more information about the number moving to the city and the cost to taxpayers.
However, several council members said Tuesday that resettlement is not the city’s responsibility and that Johnson’s proposed resolution doesn’t have the support of the six other members.
The number of refugees admitted into the U.S. is determined by the federal government. The U.S. State Department works with private organizations such as Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota to facilitate resettlement.
“I think it’s unconstitutional,” Council Member John Libert said. “It’s inappropriate. I’m ashamed of him trying to pull it forward ... we can’t tell people they can’t come here.”
Said Council Member Steve Laraway, “Our job is really public safety, infrastructure, parks and utilities.”
While the federal government oversees resettlement, Johnson said in a brief interview Tuesday that “we can be involved in it” at the city level. He said in his proposed resolution that “the overall quality of life for St. Cloud residents will continue to be adversely impaired by excessive demands on local resources if primary resettlement continues.”
Johnson’s resolution comes after some residents have repeatedly pushed the City Council in recent weeks to control the number of refugees moving to St. Cloud.
On Tuesday, the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations launched a petition drive to urge the council to vote against Johnson’s motion.
The proposal is a “despicable, racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, and ill-informed motion targeting refugees,” CAIR-MN Executive Director Jaylani Hussein said in a news release.
Johnson was initially expected to introduce the resolution at next Monday’s City Council meeting, but said he plans to delay it until November.
Mayor Dave Kleis, who can’t vote on council resolutions, said Tuesday that he doesn’t see Johnson’s proposal as “reflective of the community,” and hopes the council instead approves language affirming that St. Cloud is a welcoming place.
St. Cloud, a heavily German and Catholic community along the Mississippi River, has grown increasingly diverse in recent years, especially with an increasing Somali refugee population.
Last year, the central Minnesota city was thrust into the national spotlight after a 20-year-old Somali refugee stabbed and wounded 10 people at a local mall. A year later, the FBI has been unable to pinpoint the attacker’s motives.
While many of the city’s 67,000 residents have turned out to denounce the attack and promote racial harmony at rallies, some Somali refugees have reported anti-Muslim, racist incidents.
In August, some residents presented a petition titled “St. Cloud Citizens for Transparency,” collecting nearly 300 signatures from residents in Minnesota and 11 other states, asking the council to control refugee resettlement. Since then, nearly every person who has addressed the City Council at its meetings has pushed for a moratorium.
The proposed moratorium, Laraway added, was distributed via e-mail Tuesday — the same day as the 12th annual city-sponsored “Conversation on Race,” which was designed to bring the community together.
“We’re trying to build better relations,” Laraway said. “We’re working hard to create community and break down barriers and this [moratorium] does nothing but create a new barrier.”