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Archive for the ‘Refugee Resettlement Program’ Category

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.

The St. Cloud Times has written some unfair things about Councilman Jeff Johnson, especially in their Our View editorials. This article, written by Jenny Berg, at least gives Johnson’s side of the story.

It isn’t overstating things to say that Councilman Johnson has been vilified by the others on the City Council. In this article, they’re still vilifying him. In some instances, they’re lying about him. John Libert is a perfect example of this. According to Ms. Berg’s article, Councilman Libert said “Johnson is surrounding himself by a reasonably small group of people, the anti-immigration people, so that’s all he’s listening to. He’s not listening to the public.”

First of all, I don’t think a man who just silenced a citizen who wanted to speak should be taken seriously. This past Monday, that’s what Libert did when he objected to Johnson recognizing John Palmer to speak. That’s something a tyrant does. There’s few things more disgusting in a constitutional republic than having a member of government silence a citizen. That’s what Libert did. But I digress.

Libert continued:

The people that are pushing this thing are anti-immigration people,” he said. “They want numbers, they want something to show them that we shouldn’t have immigrants here.” Libert said he is also disappointed Johnson used his title as City Council member at the Washington, D.C., panel, because Libert said it “gave the impression that the city council is supporting his actions, which we aren’t.”

I know many of the people that Libert is referring to. He couldn’t be more wrong than when he calls them “anti-immigration people.” The people that disagree with Libert just believe strongly that Gasp! the laws on the books should enforced.

Right now, the federal government isn’t enforcing its laws. What’s worse is that the city that’s getting trampled by this unfunded mandate won’t push the federal government to live up to its obligations. When the Refugee Act of 1980 was first passed, the federal government paid the cities and school boards enough money to cover the refugees’ expenses. A short 38 years later, the federal government pays a Volag $1,000 per person to find that family a home, then essentially tells the city and the school board ‘from this point forward, you’re on your own.’

Masters and Goerger both said they stand by the “welcoming” resolution. “The support I got from that resolution that I brought forward outweighed the negative comments probably 10 to one,” Goerger said. “I’m still confident I did the right thing there. As far as where we are today, well there is still that opposition,” Goerger added. “They show up at our council meetings every Monday night. They do come. It’s generally the same four or five people. They wait patiently until the end of the meeting and then they spew their hate.”

Jeff Goerger is a spit-for-brains lefty. What’s worse is that he doesn’t like listening to people he disagrees with. That’s something he has in common with Libert and Lewis. This line is telling:

Libert agreed Johnson’s proposed refugee moratorium has fostered an “atmosphere of hate and bigotry” that works against the city. “I think as a council member our job is to promote St. Cloud as a very viable, living, healthy community. If you Google St. Cloud and all that comes up is immigrants and hate and bigotry, it’s not good,” he said.

Here’s a bit of advice for Mr. Libert. The job of city council members is to put in place smart policies to make the community attractive and to put in place a budget that funds public safety, transportation and other important core functions.

St. Cloud is heading in the wrong direction. Businesspeople know this. They won’t admit it in public but they know it’s heading in the wrong direction. Businesses are shutting down or leaving. Unemployment is solid but wealth keeps leaving. Crime is rising.

Mr. Libert, how can you promote a city with those problems festering? If you’re saying ‘things are wonderful’ while these other things are falling apart, people will eventually conclude that you aren’t honest. That’s the point at which they tune you out, then vote you out.

Councilman Johnson doesn’t sweep St. Cloud’s problems under the rug. He tries solving them. I can’t say that about Goerger, Masters, Laraway, Lewis or Libert. As problem solvers, they’re next-to-worthless. Finally, this statement is telling:

Laraway, who is a member of the CentraCare Health Board of Directors, said the company has more than 700 open positions and that he’s worried the negativity surrounding immigration issues could hamper attempts for companies such as CentraCare to attract workers.

Hint to Laraway: pretending that everything is fine won’t fix the refugee problem. People aren’t moving to St. Cloud because they don’t picture it as a nice place to live. If you continue burying your head in the sand on these issues, CentraCare’s problem will only get worse. If you won’t fix these problems, step aside and let someone who’s serious be part of the solution.

KNSI’s Matt Demczyk’s article is great news for people who think the State Department’s refugee resettlement program needs to be slowed to a trickle. According to the article, “Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis announced this week that it will shift its focus to programs that combat homelessness and help at-risk children.” The article also said that “The Trump administration increased security screening requirements and decreased the annual refugee arrival ceiling. Fewer than 950 refugees arrived in Minnesota last year, compared with more than 3,000 in 2016.”

Volunteer agencies (like Catholic Charities and Lutheran Social Services), aka Volags, have used the resettlement program as a cash cow. The State Department pays Catholic Charities and LSS $3,300 to resettle refugees. The Volags are required to spend $2,300 on the refugees. Once the Volags have found the refugees a place to live, they get to keep $1,000 for their services.

Based on this information, Catholic Charities’ refugee resettlement revenue dropped from $3,000,000 in 2016 to $950,000 in 2017. A $2,000,000 drop in revenues will require Volags to rethink their business model.

No Room in St. Cloud for low income Households
By John W. Palmer, Ph.D.

Based on the recently released 2017 annual report ( Annual%20Report%202017.pdf) from the St. Cloud HRA low income households compete for a very small number of low income housing rentals.

The rental housing owned by the St. Cloud HRA consists of four funding areas. The four areas are Public Housing, Section 8 New Construction, Affordable and Tax Credit. The overall vacancy rate for 2017 was 2.14%. In 2016 the vacancy rate was 2.13%.

The waiting list for Housing Choice Voucher program is currently closed. The approximate wait time is seven years. The next applicants who will be contacted for available vouchers applied to the waiting list in January 2010. There are approximately 511 households on the waiting list.

With low turnover and low vacancy rates, why would our community bring new low income residents to the area? It certainly is not welcoming to bring low income residents into a housing market that is not meeting existing demand. With 4,000+ applicants turned away from various public housing programs, these applicants are forced to resort to the type (exceeding occupancy limits) of housing search many college students use. Many of the former college student housing in St. Cloud is in disrepair and may no longer be registered as rental property and thus avoiding zoning requirements.

How is it welcoming to bring low income people like resettled refugees to our community when it is a given that large numbers of them will ?nd themselves living in substandard house?

I wish I could say I was surprised by David Fitzsimmons’ campaign finance reporting tactics. Unfortunately, I’m anything but surprised. While some might criticize John Kern’s LTE highlighting the Emmer campaign’s tactics, I won’t follow suit. This isn’t that dissimilar to how big corporations use a plethora of regulations against small business competitors to reduce competition as much as possible.

John Kern opened the LTE, writing “In July 2016, Congressman Tom Emmer’s chief of staff David Fitzsimmons and GOP delegate Matt Stevens filed multiple Federal Election Commission complaints against me, the AJ Kern for Congress campaign and a private citizen. These frivolous complaints accused me of filing quarterly reports late and apparently attempting to gain undue influence with my wife by exceeding personal campaign contribution limits from our shared assets. Eighteen months later, presidentially appointed FEC commissioners voted 5-0 to dismiss.”

That’s the predictable outcome of these FEC complaints. Rep. Emmer knew he was underperforming at the time. According to Minnesota’s Secretary of State’s website, Emmer, the incumbent, won the primary with a pathetic 68% of the vote. That’s pathetic considering the fact that Emmer “out-fundraised AJ Kern’s 2016 campaign” by a 61-1 margin.

Emmer won’t win by overwhelming margins because he’s ignored his constituents on key issues. Specifically, he’s agreed with the Obama administration lock, stock and barrel on the Refugee Resettlement Program. When questioned by constituents if he’d push for a moratorium of the program, Emmer replied “That isn’t happening.” (I know because I attended that townhall at the Ace Bar on July 1, 2015. That’s also the night Kate Steinle was murdered.) After that meeting, AJ Kern told attendees that she was thinking about challenging Emmer. Here’s the explanation for why Emmer didn’t support his constituents:

President Trump has frequently criticized “the Swamp.” Regulations implemented by the Swamp have a chilling effect on both speech and competition. The truth is that Emmer is part of DC’s Swamp. Bradley Smith, the former Commissioner of the FEC, is one of the fiercest champions of free speech. Here’s what he’s stated on the record:

Charges and litigation are used to harass opposing candidates and make political hay with the press… used most effectively by ‘incumbents’. Many, if not most, of these cases end up being dismissed, but not without distracting the campaigns and using up their resources. …The problem in campaign finance is that unethical politicians are threatening private actors, rather than that unethical special interests are threatening government.

When John McCain and Russ Feingold wrote the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, aka McCain-Feingold, grassroots activists criticized it by nicknaming it the ‘Incumbents’ Protection Act’. That’s exactly right. BCRA didn’t eliminate corruption. It codified corruption by burying challengers under mountains of paperwork. That’s what its intent was.

While career politicians might want to fight the hordes of uppity peasants insisting on being heard, those career politicians won’t silence the activists’ voices.

Emmer can take that to the bank.