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Archive for the ‘Refugee Resettlement Program’ Category

John Palmer, a professor emeritus at St. Cloud State, is getting city officials’ attention by participating in discussions that might lead to recalling members of the City Council.

According to the article, a “group of about 15 St. Cloud residents is planning to study the possible recall of elected officials after the ‘continued denial on the part of the City Council and (a)dministration of problems created by the actions of Lutheran Social (Service) of Minnesota’s resettlement of refugees into the city,’ according to St. Cloud resident John Palmer.”

Thanks to the City Council’s arrogance, the citizens are getting fed up. When Councilman Johnson announced that he’d be bringing a resolution up for debate, he made sure each member of the council had a copy of the resolution well in advance. When Jeff Goerger presented his resolution for debate, it was sprung on Councilman Johnson during that meeting.

Each time Councilman Johnson responded to his constituents’ calls for additional information on the costs associated with refugees, Mayor Kleis, the City Council and the County did their best to stonewall him. What these citizens didn’t notice (either that or they just tried ignoring them) is that there’s a substantial following that are worried about the financial impact refugees are having on their city and their schools. If these city councilmembers don’t start listening, they’ll get fired the next time that they’re up for re-election.

Palmer has attended the last few council meetings and study sessions, and has offered to speak about Robert’s Rules of Order, on which the council’s rules of order is based. “The common element is to get answers about the cost to society relative to resettlement of refugees,” Palmer said, adding that it frustrates the group’s members that “none of the elected officials in the area appear to have an interest” in studying the costs.

While Mayor Kleis says that there isn’t a cost associated with refugees, other argue the opposite. Don Casey stated “No one even knows for sure how many Somali refugees live in St. Cloud (or this metro area). All we know is Lutheran Social Services has settled a little more than 1500 — a fraction of the actual count because the majority are secondary refugees who resettled here from other communities in the U.S. (Johnson’s resolution didn’t deal with secondary settlers.)”

Casey’s argument is that it’s impossible to know the costs so we shouldn’t try getting to know how much it costs. What he’s essentially saying is that we shouldn’t care how much something costs if the government tries to hide the costs from taxpayers. That’s stupid.

Just 2 weeks ago, the St. Cloud City Council tried silencing Councilman Jeff Johnson. They improperly approved a resolution that wasn’t allowed by the Council’s own rules. For an item to get discussed during the meeting, the council is supposed to receive notice that it will be discussed, with the theory being that the council should have the opportunity to read and think through proposals. Instead, Councilman Goerger ambushed Councilman Johnson with his ‘welcoming’ resolution.

During last night’s discussion of Johnson’s resolution, Councilman Hontos scolded the Council for mistreating Johnson. Hontos highlighted something that the Council rejected when Jeff Johnson proposed it but accepted it when Mayor Kleis proposed it. Let’s be clear about something. This Council, as currently configured, isn’t welcoming if you don’t march in lockstep with them. Frankly, several members don’t apply the rules that they voted on in August. They’ve done everything they can to discourage Jeff Johnson’s quest for information about how much refugee resettlement costs taxpayers.

The good news is that Councilman Johnson isn’t easily discouraged. The more these politicians and bureaucrats try hiding this information, the more Johnson insists on getting the information. BTW, each time the Council tries keeping that information from the public, Johnson’s group of supporters gets bigger. This isn’t disappearing. It isn’t going away. These citizens are determined. Politicians who’ve attempted to ignore this issue will get hurt the next time they run for re-election.

About 4 hours and 10 minutes into the meeting Councilman Johnson talked about the provision that allows states to opt out of the program. Specifically, Councilman Johnson said “What absolutely frustrates me is when members of the legislature tell me that there’s nothing the state can do. That’s absolute bullroar because it says right here in 45 Code of regulations dash 301, giving states the ability to opt out of the Refugee Resettlement Program.” Then Councilman Johnson highlights the procedure for opting out of the resettlement program. It isn’t impossible. It just requires a spine. Councilman Johnson is the only person on the City Council who has one. He’s also the only person who actually listens to the people, not the special interests.

The truth is that the people who voted for Councilman Goerger’s resolution aren’t welcoming people. They’re welcoming only if people agree with them. They ambushed Councilman Johnson because he stood up to them. That isn’t the definition of welcoming. That’s the definition of fickle.

This LTE, written by Maureen Warren, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, is pure CYA. In the LTE, Warren states “As part of our work, we are required to hold quarterly meetings with stakeholders that are involved in the process of helping to resettle refugees. These stakeholders include officials from local government, county personnel in human services, and representatives from public health, public safety, housing community, public education, social services, businesses and other service providers.”

There’s ample proof that county officials have gotten briefed on the programs. After all, they administer most of these programs. However, there’s no proof whatsoever that city officials have attended these meetings. Mayor Kleis has repeatedly said that the city doesn’t have anything to do with refugee resettlement. He’s also said “We don’t have any funding that goes to refugee resettlement.”

That’s pretty slippery wording. Notice that Mayor Kleis didn’t say that the city budget doesn’t spend money on refugees who’ve already settled here. Further, citizens who support Councilman Johnson’s moratorium haven’t talked about city budgets:

Since July 10, 22 people have spoken about refugee resettlement. Many of the speakers said they are concerned about the taxpayer cost of refugees.

Once the refugees have been here 90 days, federal funding disappears. At that point, the taxpayers get hit with the costs of supporting refugees. The same taxpayers that pay property taxes to the city get hit with property tax increases from the school district to pay for programs that help refugees learn the English language. That’s why St. Cloud’s education rating is awful. By comparison, Sartell, which doesn’t have to deal with refugees, earns a higher rating for education and for crime.

Our focus is to increase communication and seek solutions to meet the needs of refugee populations. This is a working group. Quarterly meetings were never intended to be an open public forum.

Thus far, it’s apparent that LSS’s focus is on keeping these proceedings secret.

We know there is community interest in learning more about refugee resettlement. To create greater understanding about this work, we are opening our December quarterly consultation meeting to interested public observers.

How quaint. LSS is opening up a meeting one time so LSS can say that they’ve been transparent.

Resettling refugees is humanitarian work. We’ve been involved in refugee resettlement for nearly 10 years in St. Cloud, and many decades in Minnesota. Our role is to help refugees get off to a good start and become productive members of the community as quickly as possible.

Actually, it’s a racket. Businesses that hire refugees who’ve been unemployed more than 6 months qualify for a tax credit of up to $9,600. Businesses hiring refugees aren’t hiring them for middle management positions. They’re hiring them for unskilled positions. In other words, businesses get cheap labor and a huge tax credit for hiring cheap labor.

Meanwhile, LSS gets paid $1,000 for each refugee it finds a home for. This year, LSS will get $225,000 to resettle refugees. That doesn’t sound like humanitarian work. That’s what a lucrative racket sounds like. This letter from Ron Branstner lays things out beautifully:

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Based on the number of refugees admitted into the country, there’s no mistaking the fact that there’s a new administration in charge. These statistics don’t tap-dance around the differences between the Obama administration and the Trump administration.

For instance, “In October 2017, the first month of FY 2018, only 275 refugees from … Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen were admitted to the United States under the Refugee Admissions Program. In contrast, in October 2016, the first month of FY 2017, a total of 4,581 refugees from these seven countries were admitted into the United States under the Refugee Admissions Program (1,352 from Somalia, 1,323 from Iraq, 1,297 from Syria, 414 from Iran, and none from either Libya or Yemen.)”

That’s what I like seeing! If people want to call me Islamophobic, that’s fine. It isn’t true but I won’t shrivel if I’m called that. I won’t worry if Gov. Dayton says I need to find another state, either:

These refugees cost communities tons of money. It costs schools lots of extra money to get refugees up to speed in speaking English. It costs workers tons of money in lower wages, too. Then there’s this:

Refugee Council USA, the “trade organization” of the refugee resettlement industry, issued a statement last week that it “is appalled by the Administration’s proposed changes to refugee processing. These changes enact another ban on refugee admissions and are driven by ideology rather than necessity.”

TRANSLATION: Our clients need the cheap labor provided by these refugees. Trump is spoiling that for our clients.

If you think I’m being sarcastic about what RCUSA is complaining about, I’m not. I wrote about the refugee resettlement racket in this post. It’s another of DC’s cottage industries.

This LTE made me laugh hysterically. The heart of the LTE says “There is a relatively new organization, the National Institute for Civil Discourse, that might welcome the debate/discussion that will take place on Nov. 6 at the St. Cloud City Council meeting, when Johnson plans to introduce his proposed ban. Rather than calling names, let us have the free speech discussion on an issue that divides many of us. “Civil discourse, wherein we actually listen and hear one another, is key to a democratic republic, which our Founding Fathers gave us!”

If you watch the video of that portion of the Oct. 23 City Council meeting, you’d see that those that voted for the Goerger resolution shut down debate the minute Councilman Johnson started speaking. Councilman Masters made the motion to stop discussion after only a few minutes of hearing from the opposition. While it’s wrong to call that censorship, it isn’t wrong to accuse the City Council 5 afraid of having a full-throated discussion of the issues.

Mayor Kleis has been flippant, too, frequently stating that a) it’s a federal matter and b) no money comes out of the city budget. Frankly, that’s insulting. I’ll stipulate that there isn’t a line item in St. Cloud’s operating budget titled ‘Law Enforcement- refugees’ or ‘City health inspections of Somali restaurants’, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a cost.

Further, St. Cloud taxpayers in Benton, Sherburne and Stearns counties live in ISD742. Everyone of those home owners pay property taxes that pay for the school levy that helps refugee students get up to speed on reading English. St. Cloud taxpayers pay taxes to the state, too, which funds many of the health insurance programs or other human services like housing assistance. Whether it’s technically part of St. Cloud’s operating budget or not, it’s still a tax paid by St. Cloud taxpayers.

Playing coy word games isn’t leadership. It’s insulting. Mayor Kleis, if you aren’t willing to be a leader, find a different job. St. Cloud has gone downhill the last 5+ years. Downtown businesses are doing poorly. The University that you provided political cover for is in a financial and enrollment tailspin. That’s hurting St. Cloud’s economy.

While it would be nice to see some civility and professionalism at next week’s City Council meeting, I don’t have high expectations for that.

When Jeff Goerger introduced his resolution advocating for a “just and welcoming community” towards refugees, he either didn’t know that Lutheran Social Services, aka LSS, and the business communities welcomed refugees with open arms or he knew that and pretended that refugees weren’t welcome in St. Cloud. Let’s examine those premises’ credibility.

First, let’s examine the fact that LSS gets paid $2,125 per refugee that they settle. Of that $2,125, LSS (or whatever Volag that settles refugees) is required to spend $1,125 on the refugee (s). The Volag is allowed to keep the other $1,000. Let’s not forget that LSS is a charity. On that part of their charity, they send 53% of their money to their client while keeping 47% of the money for other expenses.

Next, let’s consider the fact that LSS gets a fresh batch of new clients each year. This year, 225 refugees were settled in St. Cloud. That means that LSS might potentially earn $225,000 for resettling refugees this year. Next year, they’ll get another batch of refugees to settle. That will put another pile of money into their coffers. That sounds like a pretty reliable racket to pay LSS salaries.

That’s just part of the racket, though. This article highlights why businesses want to keep this racket running. According to the article, employers “are eligible for a maximum tax credit of $9,600” if they hire people from well-defined groups. FYI- Refugees are one of the well-defined groups. From an employer’s standpoint, this is like playing Russian Roulette with an empty gun whose firing pin has been removed. Those willing to ‘play’ this game hit the jackpot…twice.

This is the public face of the resettlement program:

The other face of resettlement hasn’t been shown. That’s the face of businesses getting taxpayer subsidies on top of cheap labor. Saying that employers hiring refugees aren’t paying them upper middle class wages is understatement. Adding this federal tax credit into the equation just makes it virtually irresistible to employers. Cheap labor gets even cheaper thanks to these tax credits.

The best part for employers and the Volags is that the supply doesn’t end. That isn’t the end, though. This article ought to get everyone’s attention:

After the 90-day reception period is over, the resettlement agencies discontinue those support services, with the expectation that refugees become self-sufficient and secure employment within that period. At this point, the refugees also start receiving notifications from IOM, asking them to pay back the cost of their plane tickets, payments the agency uses to reimburse the U.S. government for covering refugee transportation.

If refugees aren’t able to stand on their own feet after that period, they’re eligible to access some public benefits, including food, cash and medical assistance, for which all low-income legal residents can qualify. (There are some forms of assistance, however, including housing programs, that new arrivals don’t qualify for unless they’ve lived in the U.S. for a certain period of time.)

As St. Cloud City Council Member Jeff Goerger pointed out at Monday’s meeting, though, none of costs for any of the resettlement services are borne by the city. As he noted, the federal, state and county governments “are responsible for the funding, management, and relocation of refugees.”

Goerger’s statement is pretty flippant. Just because those costs don’t show up in St. Cloud’s budget doesn’t mean the costs are nonexistent. As Bill Clinton once famously said, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Whether these programs are paid through the state budget, the federal budget, the county budget, the city budget or the school board’s budget, they’re still expensive.

When the school district pays for programs to help children of refugees get up to speed with English, the school district’s property tax levy is displayed on the same form as my city property tax form. Why should I think of them as being from different budgets? As the cliché goes, it’s a distinction without a difference.

While it’s apparent that the City of St. Cloud budget isn’t impacted by the initial act of resettlement, it’s pretty apparent that the city, the counties and the state budgets are greatly impacted. Apparently, that doesn’t matter to Councilman Goerger or Mayor Kleis. Is that because it isn’t their ox that’s getting gored directly?

Much has been written about the controversial finish to the Oct. 23 St. Cloud City Council meeting. One thing that’s been the topic of discussion is that the Goerger resolution felt like an ambush. That’s certainly the position most of Councilman Johnson’s supporters have. After Councilman Goerger’s introduction of his resolution and after it was seconded, Councilman Johnson rightfully complained that he’d had less than 2 minutes to read Goerger’s resolution before voting on it. Noticeably silent was Councilman Masters.

That’s odd because of what happened at the Oct. 9 City Council meeting. Near the end of that meeting, Councilman Johnson told the Council that he would be introducing a resolution at a future City Council meeting. At that point, City Councilman Masters said to Councilman Johnson “If you would please provide both the Council and to the administration this proposal so we could look at it ahead of time and have diligent time to look it over and so forth.” Councilman Johnson quickly replied that he’d get his proposed resolution at least a week in advance of the Oct. 23 meeting. You can see the exchange between Johnson and Masters approximately 1:18:00 into this video:

About a week in advance, Councilman Johnson announced that he wouldn’t bring forth his resolution until the Nov. 6 meeting, most likely because Councilman Hontos was out of town for the Oct. 23 meeting.

When Councilman Goerger brought up his resolution, Councilman Johnson complained about having insufficient time to read through the resolution and to do proper diligence on it. At the first opening after Councilman Johnson spoke, Masters made a motion to end discussion on the motion. The question I’d ask Councilman Masters is straightforward. It’s obvious that he wanted to do his diligence with Councilman Johnson’s resolution. Why didn’t he want to take the same amount of time to do his due diligence with Councilman Goerger’s resolution? Was it because he’d already read the resolution prior to the Oct. 23 meeting? But I digress.

My question for Councilman Masters is this: Why didn’t he make a motion to table discussion on Goerger’s resolution rather than making his motion to shut down discussion? Doing the proper due diligence is certainly appropriate. Why didn’t he apply the same seriousness to both resolutions?

Last week, this St. Cloud Times editorial said “The St. Cloud City Council did the right thing Monday night when it voted 5-1 to adopt a resolution declaring the city a just and welcoming community.” They’re entitled to their opinion, though they aren’t entitled to their own facts. The truth is that the Council didn’t vote on Councilman Goerger’s resolution, at least during the regularly scheduled meeting. They voted on whether to end discussion on Jeff Goerger’s resolution.

Instead of rehashing what happened last Monday, let’s play a game called ‘What if’? For the sake of this post, let’s imagine that the City Council had 5 people who opposed refugee resettlement and just one that wanted the federal government to send more refugees to St. Cloud. Next, let’s assume that the resolution wasn’t published until minutes before discussion started on the resolution. Next, let’s assume that the majority attempted to end discussion after just 5 minutes. Finally, picture this happening while the audience screamed ‘Out of order’ when they weren’t booing the lone councilmember who supported unlimited refugee resettlement.

Given the different outcome, would the St. Cloud Times write that the City Council had done the right thing? Would the Times say that hiding such a resolution was a good thing? Or would they criticize the angry mob for hiding the resolution from the people? Would they praise the City Council for their lack of transparency? Or would they criticize them for ambushing an unsuspecting city councilmember?

If you attended the meeting 2 weeks ago or watched it livestreamed, you don’t have to imagine anything. You watched it play out that way, just with the roles reversed.

The point of this thought exercise is to highlight the importance of a few things, starting with the necessity of playing fair. Without consistent enforcement of the rules, chaos runs rampant. Without enforcing the rules of the City Council, people might get ambushed, which is what happened on Oct. 23.

Another thing that hasn’t been emphasized enough is the fact that Councilman Goerger’s resolution, which called for a just and welcoming city, wasn’t discussed with respect towards those who didn’t agree with them. The meeting was the definition of chaotic:

This ambush was the City Council at its worst. It didn’t discuss the issue thoroughly or respectfully. The Council didn’t listen to the people before shutting down debate. Worst, the Council wasn’t interested in having a debate. Those that sided with Jeff Goerger were interested in winning. They cared more about mob rule than they cared about principled, respectful governance.

This St. Cloud Times Our View editorial is proof that the Times has drank the resettlement Kool-Aid. It started by saying “The St. Cloud City Council did the right thing Monday night when it voted 5-1 to adopt a resolution declaring the city a just and welcoming community.” Actually, that’s a point of disagreement. If the Times thinks that ambushing the citizens and a city councilmember with a last minute resolution that people hadn’t seen before is doing the right thing, then they need to rethink their ethical principles.

Transparency isn’t a nicety. It’s what ethical people do reflexively. It’s done out of respect for others. What happened Monday night was disrespectful and mean-spirited. When supposed civic leaders treat the citizenry with that type of disrespect, the citizenry is entitled to not trust their civic leaders.

Later in the editorial, it said “The intent of these forums is simply to foster respectful, public dialogue aimed at answering questions based on facts, not fear.” When I first read that, I questioned whether this was written by the Onion or if they were serious. Apparently, they intended it to be serious. They failed if that was their intent.

The unmistakable message sent from Monday night’s ambush was that the City Council wasn’t interested in respectful public dialogue. They were interested in hiding the facts about the program to the point that they denied the fact that they’re breaking federal law.

This article highlights information that triggers new questions:

About 70 percent of those residents, for example, are participating in the workforce — a rate that compares to the overall workforce participation of native-born Americans in the region. “They’re filling important roles in the St. Cloud economy,” Goldenrod said. “Minnesota is increasingly relying on immigrant workers to fill critical roles in our workforce.”

Question: Of the 30% of refugees that aren’t participating in the workforce, how many of these refugees qualify for subsidized health care or rental assistance? What other government benefits do they qualify for?

This isn’t helpful:

For all that, though, Ali said he wasn’t surprised that an elected official proposed a plan to ban refugee resettlement in St. Cloud, drawing parallels between Johnson’s resolution and President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which restricts refugees from several predominately Muslim countries from entering the U.S.

I’ve had it up to here with this Muslim ban BS. Jeff Johnson isn’t proposing a ban on refugee resettlement. That’s an intentional incendiary term. Councilman Johnson is proposing a moratorium. The definition of moratorium is “an authorized period of delay or waiting.” The definition of ban is “the act of prohibiting by law; interdiction.”

Words mean things. Councilman Johnson’s resolution wouldn’t have the force of law by itself. Therefore, the word ban is entirely inappropriate. However, a moratorium is entirely appropriate because that’s an authorized wait period.

Up until this point, Councilman Johnson has been portrayed as unreasonable. That’s insulting, considering the fact that he’s the person who published his resolution 2 weeks prior to debating it. It’s insulting, especially considering the fact that he wasn’t the person who tried portraying those that didn’t agree with him as uncaring or un-American.

The people who supported Councilman Goerger’s resolution acted like hooligans. They tried shutting down debate. They tried shouting down those that disagreed with them. They were the people who weren’t interested in having a lengthy debate.

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Last Monday, the St. Cloud City Council went off the deep end. On Ox in the Afternoon’s Friday program, it was said that the City Council “flipped us the bird.” This was planned. Most disgustingly, it was a surprise ambush. Jeff Goerger put forward a resolution for the Council’s consideration. In putting forward the resolution, Goerger ignored the rules that the City Council revised this past August.

Apart from the tactics used, and infinitely more important, the City Council didn’t listen to the people. There have been a large group of people clamoring for an independent audit that tells St. Cloud residents how much of their taxes are being spent on subsidized housing, education, public safety, health and other things. That’s what was the driving force behind Councilman Johnson’s moratorium. City Council President Lewis, Councilman Laraway, Councilman Libert, Councilman Goerger and Councilman Masters voted against accountability and transparency.

They, along with Mayor Kleis, sang from the same discredited ‘hymnal’ that this is a federal issue that doesn’t intersect with the city’s budget. If they want to continue singing that discredited refrain, that’s their right. It’s also St. Cloud’s right to defeat each of these councilmembers the next time they’re up for re-election.

Goerger, Masters, Laraway, Lewis and Libert exposed themselves as unworthy of being called leaders. They did what Kleis wanted them to do. That makes them sheep, not leaders. Further, Goerger, Masters, Laraway, Lewis and Libert attempted to quiet the city with this resolution. They did the opposite. Rather than having a rational discussion with their constituents, the City Council essentially told the people to shut up, that they knew what’s best.

Goerger’s condescension was showing when he introduced his resolution, which was titled “in support of a just and welcoming community.” The implication wasn’t lost on St. Cloud. It’s apparent that Goerger thinks that those that disagree with him aren’t just. His introductory speech made that clear, saying “This one guy bringing forward a resolution is not the voice of the City Council”:

What is the City Council afraid of? It’s clear that they thought that they had to control the debate. It’s clear that the Council felt they had to repudiate Councilman Johnson. It’s clear that there’s a sizable and growing group of people who simply want to know that their taxes aren’t getting spent foolishly.

The other unmistakable message sent by the City Council was that they have no intention of being transparent with the people of St. Cloud. The unmistakable message sent by Councilman Goerger is that he’s a liberal who isn’t that bright. In his resolution, he stated that “the city of St. Cloud has the capacity to provide municipal services to the aforementioned prospective new residents without an impact on the city budget or quality of life.”

Anyone that thinks that refugees don’t have an impact on the city budget is delusional. I wrote in this post that this was a crystallizing event. Further, it’s clear from watching the video of the meeting that there were essentially as many citizens opposing Goerger’s resolution as supporting. Why, then, was the vote lopsided in favoring Goerger’s resolution?

Further, people are saying that the Goerger resolution passed. It didn’t. The only vote taken was on whether to call the question. No votes were taken on whether to approve Goerger’s resolution. This video clearly shows that:

That’s shown approximately 1:20:00 into the video. Within seconds of the vote to call the question, Council President Lewis adjourned the meeting.

Finally, it’s clear that the anti-transparency activists weren’t there to listen people with a different opinion. They were there to shout down people who disagreed with them. Think about that. The people supporting the resolution titled “in support of a just and welcoming community” shouted down the people who wanted a full, respectful discussion. These anti-transparency activists who demand St. Cloud be a welcoming community were openly hostile to Councilman Johnson.

That’s both ironic and pathetic.