Archive for the ‘Refugee Resettlement Program’ Category

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse within Minnesota’s Department of Health and Human Services, Gov. Tim Walz makes it much worse. Gov. Walz made the situation much worse by picking Jodi Harpstead to take over as commissioner of HHS in September.

Commissioner Harpstead is currently employed as the CEO of Lutheran Social Services, aka LSS. For the past 5+ years, LSS has specialized in the Refugee Resettlement program. That means that they’ve specialized in hiding important details about who was coming into Minnesota’s communities. This isn’t speculation. It’s well-documented fact.

When former City Councilman Jeff Johnson participated in a discussion on the refugee resettlement program, he expressed frustration with LSS:

To summarize that meeting, what I saw, four things were occurring. One, we have a nonprofit religious organization, OK, taking federal dollars, and they were pocketing approximately $1,000 per refugee. The allocation’s about 3,300 (dollars), but they got to keep about $1,000 per refugee, OK? They were not being transparent with the public, and it got to the point where they actually had a deputy at the door monitoring who was coming into the meetings. And I said you need to open up these meetings because you’re using federal dollars, you’re a nonprofit organization, and to me it was becoming apparent that they were acting like a for-profit corporation.

LSS was the volag running the meetings. Now, Gov. Walz has tapped the CEO of LSS to be the commissioner of HHS. Saying that HHS is embroiled in a crisis is understatement. Part of the crisis is rampant fraud within HHS.

When HHS Commissioner Tony Lourey abruptly resigned last month, he didn’t say why he was leaving, other than saying that the Department needed new leadership that he wasn’t capable of providing. The week prior to Lourey’s resignation, his 2 deputies resigned without an explanation. They’ve since returned to their positions.

If ever there was a department that needed a massive infusion of transparency, HHS is it. Hiring a woman whose current organization specializes in hiding things from government officials isn’t a first step towards building confidence with the public.

This hiring smacks of arrogance in the worst way. This is Gov. Walz’s attempt to stiff-arm the legislature, at least the part that gives a damn about providing oversight. (At this point, the DFL House isn’t interested in providing oversight.)

This week, Senate Republicans held a 3.5 hour-long oversight hearing into why “the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and the White Earth Nation received $25.3 million in excess payments for medically assisted treatments covered through Medicaid over several years.” At the hearing, Committee Chair Michelle Benson said “The taxpayers didn’t make this mistake. They’re not the ones who used the judgment to cause the overpayments, why should they be held responsible?” She also said that “lawmakers shouldn’t have to allocate $25 million in additional funds to cover overpayments to two tribes.”

HHS needs a serious culture change. It’s questionable that Ms. Harpstead will provide that type of leadership. The organization she’s currently running specializes in secrecy and stiff-arming local politicians. That isn’t the reputation of a reformer. Make no mistake, either. HHS needs a reformation:

Other DHS employees or former employees shared with the committee their concerns about what they’d faced at the department. The former Medicaid program director told the panel bureaucrats in the department rejected advice from medical professionals and abruptly dismissed him in July.

And Faye Bernstein, a DHS compliance officer, said she was put on temporary leave when she raised concerns about compliance in state contracts. She was later allowed to return to her post and appeared Tuesday on a vacation day. She said she’d received notice ahead of the hearing that she could be terminated for her comments to lawmakers.

Think about that a minute. Bernstein was “put on temporary leave” because “she raised concerns about compliance” issues. If that isn’t proof that HHS needs a total reformation, then it’s hopeless.

The Senate has the constitutional responsibility of confirming commissioners. Unless Sen. Benson’s committee gets proof that Harpstead is serious about changing the culture at HHS, the Senate should reject her, then tell Gov. Walz that he needs to appoint someone who is committed to transparency and reformation.

Gov. Walz took time to visit the Vikings’ training facility. Apparently, he thinks that being the CEO of the state is a part-time responsibility. Thus far, he’s been a huge disappointment.

When it comes to stupidity, liberal legal stupidity is pretty stunning. Writing in the comments section of this LTE, John Ellenbecker, St. Cloud’s former mayor, wrote some insulting drivel. That’s actually a step up from his usual foolishness. But I digress.

The LTE stops short of accusing Dr. John Palmer of being a racist only because the writer didn’t mention Dr. Palmer. Dr. Palmer was interviewed by the NY Times a little less than a month ago about his activism related to the refugee resettlement crisis that’s crippling St. Cloud. Other liberals, however, aren’t being that nice. This cartoon is downright disgusting:

FULL DISCLOSURE: I’ve known Dr. Palmer for 15 years. Accusing John of being a hater is sloppy and hurtful. Then again, the First Amendment gives idiots like this cartoonist the right to be sloppy and dishonest. But I digress again.

Mayor Ellenbecker left this comment:

Intolerance isn’t and shouldn’t be the issue. I am intolerant to many things – drivers who camp out in the left lane of I-94 leading the list. The issue is whether we respect the rights of others. I don’t have to tolerate you – but I do have to respect your rights. John Palmer has every right to be a bigot and engage in bigoted speech – he does not have the right to violate the rights of people who live in this community. His moratorium on refugee settlement in St. Cloud was a blantant volation of the rights of people – including refugees – to determine for themselves where they will live. I have no tolerance for John Palmer and his followers, I don’t expect them to tolerate me. I will insist, however, that he not violate the rights of people residing in this community.

Before going into the substance, or lack thereof, of Ellenbecker’s comment, it isn’t too much to ask Mr. Ellenbecker to use his spell-checker. (Blantant volation? Seriously?)

Ellenbecker said that Dr. Palmer has the right to be a bigot. It isn’t difficult to figure out where that came from:

It’s part of the liberals’ standardized playbook to accuse decent people of being racists. It’s frequently used to stifle debate. There’s no more proof that Dr. Palmer is a racist than there’s proof that Ellenbecker is honest or smart. Next, Ellenbecker’s statement on the refugee resettlement program is dishonest. He said that Dr. Palmer’s “moratorium on refugee settlement in St. Cloud was a blatant violation of the rights of people, including refugees, to determine for themselves where they will live.” Actually, the Refugee Act of 1980 gives communities the right to have significant input into where and when refugees in the primary resettlement happen. Check this out:

It says “Whereas the Refugee Act of 1980 states that 8 U.S. Code 1522(b),” quote, “‘The director’” – I’m talking about the Minnesota Office of Refugee Resettlement director – “‘shall develop and implement in consultation with representatives of voluntary agencies and state and local governments’” – that’s me, OK? – “‘policies and strategies for the placement and resettlement of refugees within the United States.’”

The St. Cloud City government, including the City Council, is ignoring its responsibilities. According to this law, state and local government shall “develop and implement” “policies and strategies for the placement and resettlement of refugees within the United States.”

At no point in his comment did Mr. Ellenbecker cite any proof that Dr. Palmer had violated anyone’s civil rights.” Having known Mr. Ellenbecker since high school, I’m confident that that’s because he doesn’t have any proof to sustain his accusation. He’s always been long on accusations and short on intelligence.

In this article, outgoing St. Cloud City Councilmember John Libert said “If you look at the city council as a job…the job description basically is making sure the city is running well. Part of your job description isn’t talking about national issues — immigration, the Mexico wall, our relationship with Canada. It may be a personal issue someone may have but it’s not part of your job description so you’ve got to focus on your job description and do your job.”

It’s sad that Councilman Libert didn’t do his homework on the subject. The Refugee Act of 1980 in 8 U.S.C 1522(2)(A) gives specific instructions to city councils on their responsibilities, saying “The Director and the Federal agency administering subsection (b)(1) of this section shall consult regularly (not less often than quarterly) with State and local governments and private nonprofit voluntary agencies concerning the sponsorship process and the intended distribution of refugees among the States and localities before their placement in those States and localities.”

It’s indisputable that city councils are part of local governments. It’s equally indisputable that federal agencies have a responsibility to “consult regularly” with city councils “before [refugees are placed] in those…localities.”

Apparently, Councilman Libert hasn’t figured it out that he had a responsibility to monitor primary resettlement in St. Cloud. Thankfully, he’s been relieved of those responsibilities.

Libert said Johnson’s “bashing of St. Cloud State” during his tenure on the council was the “dumbest thing in the world. What you’ve got to do is say, ‘St. Cloud State, we know you’ve got some enrollment issues but we’re here. What can we do to help you?’ We can hold our hands out and our hearts open,” Libert said.

Paul Brandmire defeated Libert this past election. I’m confident he’ll make smarter decisions than Libert did.

Jeff Johnson’s clarifying editorial is likely Councilman Johnson’s final official statement on the issue of refugee resettlement. During this fight, others on the City Council have mischaracterized the local government’s rights. Further, they’ve lied about the volunteer agencies’ affirmative responsibilities.

Meanwhile, Councilman Johnson’s research has been perfect. He cited specific US statutes that totally supported his claims. Councilman Johnson specifically cited “the Refugee Act of 1980 in 8 U.S.C 1522(2)(A)”, which says “The Director and the Federal agency administering subsection (b)(1) of this section shall consult regularly (not less often than quarterly) with State and local governments and private nonprofit voluntary agencies concerning the sponsorship process and the intended distribution of refugees among the States and localities before their placement in those States and localities.”

In his editorial, Councilman Johnson wrote that “Lutheran Social Services is supposed to have quarterly meetings with constituents, which has been hit and miss at best. When they do have their quarterly meeting, they simply ‘inform’ the participants after refugee placement occurs.” How does that comply with the Refugee Act of 1980?

One of the commenters (a liberal named Mike Aurelius) wrote “Perhaps you should look up the word “consult”. It doesn’t mean what you think it means. Consult does not mean consent.” Then the commenter asks “Are you actually thinking of trying to get the city to sue the Federal Government? LMAO!! Good luck with that.”

Talk about strawman arguments. Councilman Johnson never said that consultation was the same as consent or the right of approval. Further, Councilman Johnson never hinted that he’d encourage the St. Cloud City Council to sue the federal government. I’m not surprised by Mr. Aurelius’ comments and questions. Liberal commenters often ‘hear’ questions that were never asked. Why shouldn’t Mr. Aurelius hear something that wasn’t asked this time? This isn’t the first time it’s happened.

Based on the language of the bill, it’s clear that local officials have been given an important responsibility in the refugee resettlement program. It’s equally clear that the City Council’s responsibility is limited to a consulting role. Still, that’s an important role considering the fact that the federal government is essentially dumping another unfunded mandate on the cities. Perhaps unfunded mandate is too strong. Underfunded definitely isn’t too strong, though.

John Ellenbecker, St. Cloud’s former mayor, is the worst kind of bigot. Like too many leftists, he’s heard things that’ve never gotten said. He’s certain of things that he doesn’t have proof for. This LTE caused lots of comments, including this comment from Mr. Ellenbecker:

the proposed moratorium WAS/IS about excluding people from St. Cloud. The desire to exclude people from St Cloud is based upon bigotry – that is a simple fact. You can delude yourself if you like – but bigotry is bigotry – and it is alive and well and living in those who proposed the moratorium. Bigots aren’t bigots because they disagree with me. Bigots are bigots because of what is in their heart and soul. Rather than arguing with me why not examine why you don’t want Somali Americans residing next to you.

This is simple fact? Forgive me if I’m not persuaded by Mr. Ellenbecker’s allegations. What’s his proof? FYI- Mr. Ellenbecker went to law school. I don’t know if he’s still a lawyer because I’ve heard that he’s had some ethical difficulties. He should be familiar with the concept of presenting verifiable evidence. Apparently, the law school he attended taught him that allegations are verifiable proof.

Here’s how Robert Ahles responded to Mr. Ellenbecker:

You keep making things up. No one mentioned Somali Americans or them residing next to me, next to Dave Bechtold, or next to many community member concerned about the additional taxpayer costs. I’m guessing I’d probably rather live next to a Somali American than next to a John Ellenbecker.

Well played, Mr. Ahles. Stick in the proverbial dagger, then give it a sharp twist or 2.

This isn’t surprising when you think about it. Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee insisted that then-Judge Kavanaugh shouldn’t be afforded the presumption of innocence. The Obama administration’s Department of Education sent out a guidance letter instructing universities not to give people who were accused of sexual assault the right to an attorney, the right to cross-examine his accuser or any other due process rights.

Is it any wonder why lots of people don’t think that Democrats care about the Constitution or the Bill of Rights?

When it comes to the issue of refugee resettlement, Mayor Dave Kleis couldn’t be more wrong. Mayor Kleis has said that it’s unconstitutional for the City Council to get involved in resettlement matters. This LTE repeats that belief when it says “Kleis went so far as to call this unconstitutional when former council member Jeff Johnson pushed a similar line. City councils have no business or right to police the free movement of people within the United States, nor do cities set federal immigration policy.”

This mush is misguided at best. Let’s set some things straight. First, the federal government sets immigration and asylum policy. The “United States Refugee Act of 1980” still sets the policy. What Mayor Kleis gets wrong is thinking that city councils and states aren’t allowed any input into how migrant policy is implemented. Over the weekend, someone sent me information of a court case that deals with this. I wrote about that information in this post. Here’s the important part:

According to the press release announcing the lawsuit, Judicial Watch said “In October 2016, Judicial Watch made public 128 pages of documents it obtained from the mayor of Rutland, Vermont, showing a concerted effort by the mayor and a number of private organizations to conceal from the public their plans to resettle 100 Syrian refugees into the small southern Vermont town. The mayor and resettlement organizations shrouded the plan in such secrecy that not even the town’s aldermen were informed of what was taking place behind closed doors.”

Here’s what happened when the mayor and the State Department tried hiding information from that city council:

The aldermen eventually wrote to the U.S. Department of State protesting the plan and opened an investigation into the mayor’s actions.

Looking into refugee resettlement isn’t unconstitutional, especially when Sen. Ted Kennedy wrote into the bill that required the State Department to talk with local units of government before the fact.

That’s called collaboration. That’s the opposite of unconstitutional. It doesn’t require the federal government to relinquish its authority of setting immigration policy. It doesn’t require city councils to be silent ‘victims’ of federal overreach. Instead, it requires both levels of government to work together. I’d love hearing Mayor Kleis explain how that’s unconstitutional.

Finally, what Councilman Johnson proposed was a resolution that proposed a moratorium. He didn’t propose an ordinance requiring a moratorium on the refugee resettlement program. Since when is it unconstitutional for city councilmembers to state their opinions on federal policies?

When it comes to “listening to both sides,” it is quite clear that Brandmire is the one not listening. I suggest he go back and read Kleis’s comments for reference, and review the statements made by council members about previous attempts to limit refugees moving to St. Cloud. There have also been local events that specifically addressed the costs, though it’s clear from his column that cost is not the real issue – culture is.

Councilman Johnson’s resolution dealt strictly with primary resettlement. It didn’t (and couldn’t) deal with secondary resettlement. It would be wise if this person actually paid attention to what was actually discussed instead of worrying about straw-man arguments that were never made.

Fresh off its victory against Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, Judicial Watch has filed another FOIA lawsuit, this time to obtain “records on sites that were considered for the resettlement of refugees in the United States during the last two years of the Obama administration.’

According to the press release announcing the lawsuit, Judicial Watch said “In October 2016, Judicial Watch made public 128 pages of documents it obtained from the mayor of Rutland, Vermont, showing a concerted effort by the mayor and a number of private organizations to conceal from the public their plans to resettle 100 Syrian refugees into the small southern Vermont town. The mayor and resettlement organizations shrouded the plan in such secrecy that not even the town’s aldermen were informed of what was taking place behind closed doors.”

Apparently, it isn’t unconstitutional to look into the program. Apparently, all it takes is someone with integrity. Check this out:

The aldermen eventually wrote to the U.S. Department of State protesting the plan and opened an investigation into the mayor’s actions.

It’s impossible to picture the St. Cloud City Council opening an investigation into Mayor Kleis or the program’s principles unless his name was Jeff Johnson. St. Cloud’s City Council has too many misinformed, gullible people on it to do something smart like open an investigation.

Rest assured that Judicial Watch will get to the bottom of this situation. It might take some time but they’ll find out what’s happening.

WJON’s debate featuring incumbent John Libert and challenger Paul Brandmire was quite instructive. It exposed Libert as being mean-spirited and willing to attack people who weren’t there to defend themselves. Here’s what happened.

During the debate, Mr. Brandmire said that he didn’t like how the Council treated Jeff Johnson when he proposed his moratorium resolution. Mr. Libert replied by saying that Councilman Johnson’s resolution was a PR stunt. Attacking someone who isn’t there to defend themselves is just mean-spirited. Further, Mr. Libert isn’t even close to the truth.

I’ll stipulate that Councilman Johnson wanted to highlight the fact that the governmental agencies involved in the refugee resettlement program were about as transparent as a piece of granite. At the local level, I’d hope that people would put a high priority in transparency. Lutheran Social Services, aka LSS, the school district and the county haven’t told us what the resettlement program is costing us in increased taxes. Here’s Part I of the Libert-Brandmire debate:

Libert actually said “The moratorium was actually a publicity stunt by Mr. Johnson, plain and simple, because we’ve had 12 attorneys look at what he was trying to do and it was illegal and unconstitutional and all it would do is give the city of St. Cloud a reputation of being a hatred, racist community and it didn’t make any sense to do it.”

First, calling a resolution illegal and unconstitutional is BS. I’d love hearing Mr. Libert’s explanation telling me what part of the Constitution Councilman Johnson’s resolution violates. Further, Councilman Johnson notified the Council that he’d bring up the resolution at a future City Council meeting as new business. There’s nothing improper about that. Third, Councilman Goerger’s resolution was brought up for the first time the night it was voted on. It was an ambush. Period. People weren’t given the opportunity to read Councilman Goerger’s resolution.

Thanks to Councilman Masters calling the question, discussion of Councilman Goerger’s resolution was extremely limited. Clearly, the Council didn’t want to discuss the issue. That’s proof that Councilman Johnson’s criticism that this wasn’t a transparent process was accurate.

Frankly, Libert is a spineless politician who doesn’t have an ounce of integrity. It’s time to fire him next Tuesday.

Dave Kleis’s argument in this article is particularly flimsy. First, let’s start with what started the fight. It starts in the opening paragraph by saying a “group of St. Cloud residents is gathering signatures for a petition that would put a refugee resettlement resolution on the November ballot. But some city officials say that would be illegal.”

Later, the article states “Furthermore, the resolution itself troubles Kleis because it’s similar to a resolution proposed by City Council member Jeff Johnson last fall to pause refugee resettlement here until a study determined the costs associated with it. Last fall, Kleis said immigration and refugee resettlement are not city issues. He shared the same sentiment Wednesday.”

Actually, this initiative is the direct result of the city council’s mishandling of Councilman Johnson’s resolution and the disrespect shown to the people by Councilman Goerger. The night that Councilman Goerger presented his resolution, the City Council intended to ambush Councilman Johnson and the people. Councilman Goerger’s resolution was given to the Council literally minutes before the vote. Discussion was limited at best. Later, Councilman Laraway called the question in an attempt to stop debate. The vote was taken on whether to end debate.

In her confusion, Council President Lewis adjourned the meeting without voting on the resolution. Councilman Johnson’s resolution wasn’t seriously debated. Further, people supporting Councilman Johnson’s resolution never got the chance to testify.

It was the most disgusting, chaotic City Council meeting I’ve ever watched. Council President Lewis looked as confused as Speaker Kelliher did on the final night of the 2007 legislative session. That night, Kelliher looked dazed and confused. But I digress.

Finally, Kleis’s argument is flimsy. Here’s what he said:

“To me, the U.S. Constitution is very clear. It gives only Congress that authority. It’s not the state. It’s certainly not the county or the city,” he said.

What Mayor Kleis is ignoring is 8 U.S. Code 1522(b), which states quite clearly that “The director shall develop and implement in consultation with representatives of voluntary agencies and state and local governments policies and strategies for the placement and resettlement of refugees within the United States.”

Without question, the Constitution gives Congress the authority to work with local units of government. In fact, without that ability, it’d be impossible to smoothly administer the laws Congress enacts. Mayor Kleis knows this.

Then there’s this:

Furthermore, the resolution itself troubles Kleis because it’s similar to a resolution proposed by City Council member Jeff Johnson last fall to pause refugee resettlement here until a study determined the costs associated with it. Last fall, Kleis said immigration and refugee resettlement are not city issues. He shared the same sentiment Wednesday.

What a pile of BS. Shame on Mayor Kleis for making that flimsy argument. First, I won’t dispute the fact that immigration and refugee resettlement policy is set by the federal government. What I’ll passionately dispute is Mayor Kleis’s statement that this isn’t a city issue. It’s costing city taxpayers money. If Mayor Kleis wants to argue that there isn’t a cost to the city budget, I’ll passionately dispute that, too. Does he really want to argue that there isn’t a cost to the City for health inspections of refugee-owned restaurants? Will he argue that there aren’t any law enforcement costs related to refugees?

Just because there isn’t a line item that’s titled ‘Health Inspections — Refugees’ doesn’t mean there isn’t a cost associated with it.

Further, saying that there isn’t a cost with educating refugees, while not officially on the City’s operating budget, is foolish. How much property taxes do city residents pay to ISD 742 to pay for translators and English learning for refugees?

Mayor Kleis, why shouldn’t citizens have a say in such matters? It isn’t like you’re opposed to taking federal money for other things. Why are you opposed to telling the federal government that it has to pay for the people it dumps in our laps? It’s that or they reform the law so that it requires Volags to pick up the entire cost associated with resettled refugees.

If taxpayers pay taxes that support refugees, then we damn well better have the right to air our grievances. In fact, the Constitution gives us that exact right. It’s called the First Amendment, which says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Mayor Kleis, you should ask one of your legal eagles whether it’s legal to restrict the people’s ability to address the city government in terms of their grievances. If they’re honest with you, they’ll tell you that restricting the petition process to only ordinances is unenforceable because it violates the First Amendment.

We The People retain that right. That right isn’t given to us by the government. It’s given to us by “Nature’s God.”

This evening, I received this email from Councilman Jeff Johnson:

I’m sure some of the city council members will enjoy not having to deal with Jeff Johnson. Unfortunately, the city of St. Cloud lost a true leader and a man of impeccable integrity. In the interest of full disclosure, Jeff has been my friend for 12+ years. I doubt that that’s a surprise to those who’ve read LFR throughout the years.

The thing Councilman Johnson’s supporters, myself included, appreciated most about him was his willingness to listen to opposing points of view. If you were his constituent (and sometimes if you weren’t), he made time to listen. That’s something that most of the council doesn’t do.

Another thing that people appreciated about Councilman Johnson was his insistence on following City Council rules consistently. That’s another thing that isn’t a priority for Council President Carol Lewis and councilmembers like Steve Laraway, John Libert, Dave Masters and Jeff Goerger.