Archive for the ‘Refugee Resettlement Program’ Category

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.

This evening, a pair of loyal readers of LFR sent me an email chain with a list of questions from an area resident who is worried about some things in his community. The question that caught my attention asked “What individuals have made determinations on what, when and how many refugees would be resettled to the greater St. Cloud area? What organizations do these individuals represent?” Karin Blythe replied “These two questions both strike at the federal role and responsibility in administering the Refugee Reception & Placement (Resettlement) Program. The State Department overseas the program through the Bureau of Population, Refugees & Migration, and they determine the location in which refugees are resettled. The State Department develops a Cooperative Agreement with affiliates, such as Lutheran Social Service of MN, that stipulates the services we must provide in order to maintain our contract with them. In that Cooperative Agreement, we are instructed to develop relationships with seven designated stakeholders in the community and provide information from our meetings with those stakeholders back to the State Department. They clearly detail the agenda for that meeting and then require that we provide notes and quarterly reports of the meeting. They use that information in their assessments for resettlement placement. The stakeholders required in that Cooperative Agreement are 1. State Refugee Coordinator, 2. State Refugee Health Coordinator, 3. Rep from Local Governance, 4. Rep from Local Public Health, 5. Rep from Social Services, 6. Rep from Public Safety, and 7. Rep from Education. You attended our most recent convening of that gathering.”

I’m betting that Ms. Blythe doesn’t realize that she just admitted that the State Department didn’t obey the Refugee Act of 1980. I’m betting that Ms. Blythe doesn’t know that 8 U.S. Code 1522(b) states 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.”

8 U.S. Code 1522(c)(2) states “The director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement will provide for a mechanism whereby representatives of local affiliates of voluntary agencies regularly, not less than quarterly, meet with representatives of state and local governments to plan and coordinate in advance of their arrival the appropriate placement of refugees amongst various states and localities.”

First, the director being talked about in 8 U.S. Code 1522(b) is the director of the office of “the Minnesota Office of Refugee Resettlement.” Next, it’s worth noting that Ms. Blythe states unambiguously that the State Department “develops a Cooperative Agreement with affiliates, such as Lutheran Social Service of MN” and that this Cooperative Agreement “stipulates the services” Volags like LSS of Minnesota “must provide” to maintain their contract with the State Department.

In other words, Ms. Blythe thinks that the State Department dictates to the Volag what they must do and that the local government is just to be informed. She clearly isn’t informed. Other things that can be learned from Ms. Blythe’s reply are that she anticipates refugees needing to use lots of health care and that they’ll use lots of things from Social Services.

In Councilman Jeff Goerger’s resolution, Goerger insinuated that there wasn’t much of a cost to city taxpayers. Based on the stakeholders list, I’m betting that there’s a substantial cost to taxpayers.

This past Tuesday, St. Cloud City Councilman Jeff Johnson participated in a high-profile discussion of the Refugee Resettlement Act of 1980. Saying that it was a fascinating discussion is understatement. Each panelist made an opening presentation, which was followed by a Q & A period. These presentations were made by Don Barnett, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, Richard Thompson, the president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, and Councilman Johnson.

Follow this link to the transcript of the presentations.

During his presentation, Don Barnett quoted Ted Kennedy, the chief author of the bill, as saying “because the admission of refugees is a federal decision and lies outside of normal immigration procedures, the federal government has a clear responsibility to assist communities in resettling refugees and helping them to become self-supporting. The basic issues here were the length of time of federal responsibility and the method of its administration. State and local agencies were insistent that federal assistance must continue long enough to assure that local citizens will not be taxed for programs they did not initiate and for which they were not responsible. The program must assure full and adequate federal support for refugee resettlement programs by authorizing permanent funding for state, local, and volunteer projects.”

That might be one of the most sensible things Sen. Kennedy ever said. Here’s the video of Barnett’s presentation:

Based on what the bill’s chief author said, the federal government isn’t living up to its responsibilities. Certainly, there’s no denying the fact that the bill’s chief author knows what the legislative intent is. During his presentation, Councilman Johnson focused on the bill from the “perspective from the local city level.” Councilman Johnson said “And I want to say on my watch this really started brewing in St. Cloud approximately three years ago, where my constituents – I represent Ward 4 – started asking questions about the Refugee Resettlement Program, about why am I spending money in a program that I have no representation. This is a classic case of taxation without representation. So this started to boil over time.”

Johnson continued:

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.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s more of that ‘iceberg’:

So finally, what led up to kind of a culminating event in St. Cloud was a resolution that I had introduced into the City Council in November. And it’s a simple one-page resolution. I call it legalized plagiarism: All I did is about two-thirds of this resolution was quoted right from the Refugee Act of 1980. And I’d like to read a couple parts. Mark mentioned it early on in the presentation; it’s so important I want to mention it again just briefly. And this is the actual language in the resolution. 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 next paragraph has even more teeth from the U.S. Code: “Whereas the Refugee Act of 1980 states in 8 U.S. Code 1522(c)(2) The director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement will” – “will” is a pretty strong word – quote, “‘provide for a mechanism whereby representatives of local affiliates of voluntary agencies regularly, not less than quarterly, meet with representatives of state and local governments to plan and coordinate in advance of their arrival the appropriate placement of refugees amongst various states and localities.'”

LSS was doing its utmost to hide their actions:

What was going on here in St. Cloud is Lutheran Social Services – and after kind of pulling some teeth I finally got their abstract to kind of find out what was going on – is they were going ahead with this process. And then, because I was so persistent, it was like show and tell. I’d show up at the quarterly meetings and they’d tell me what they did. My argument is that is a violation of federal law. That is not in advance planning, all right? This is show and tell. I’m finding out after the fact. So what was going on, this was feeding into the frustration, again, to the taxpayers, the people of Ward 4 in St. Cloud that I represent.

This is how refugee resettlement rose to become the potent political issue it’s become.

The first truth about the Refugee Resettlement Program is that the federal government isn’t living up to its obligation. The next truth about the Refugee Resettlement Program is that it’s become more like an unfunded mandate with time. The third truth about the Refugee Resettlement Program is that the federal government is hostile to counties and municipalities. They don’t care whether their program drives up local taxes. The federal government’s attitude seems to be that ‘that’s their problem.’

The other thing that’s important in all of this is that the City Council, the people on the front lines on this, are supposed to protect their citizens’ interests. They aren’t there to protect the state’s interests. That’s what we have legislators for. They aren’t there to protect the federal government’s interests. That’s why we have congressmen and senators. If the city council won’t push back against the federal government, then they’re worthless. They should be replaced by people who insist on accountability and transparency.

The finger-pointing must stop immediately. While the program is administered by the federal government, it’s indisputable that municipalities and counties have shouldered an increasing percentage of the burden for this program.

It isn’t that St. Cloud is hostile to refugees. It’s that we’re upset with the federal government and with Lutheran Social Services.

Tuesday morning, the Center of Immigration Studies, aka CIS, held a panel discussion on the topic of refugee resettlement. The participating panelists were Don Barnett, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies and widely published on refugee resettlement and asylum issues, Richard Thompson, the President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, and St. Cloud City Councilman Jeff Johnson.

Based on the verified information presented during the discussion, it’s clear that the United States needs to rethink its refugee resettlement policies, not just for its own good but also for the good of the refugees. During the discussion, moderator Mark Krikorian said that the “point of refugee resettlement should be a last resort for people who literally cannot stay where they are for a second longer.” He then highlighted a report from “the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees”, which said that just “281 of the over 118,000 refugees, or 0.40 percent, the United Nations has dispatched to safe nations around the world, most to the United States, actually faced threats requiring their immediate removal. This emergency level applies to cases in which the immediacy of security and/or medical condition necessitates removal from the threatening conditions within a few days, if not within hours.”

Further, one of the other statistics presented during the event shows that it costs 12 times more to resettle refugees in the United States or other western nations than it costs to resettle refugees within the region of their birth. This information makes this propaganda video virtually irrelevant:

People need to start asking pro-refugee resettlement organizations whether it’s more important to import refugees into unfamiliar surroundings at high prices or whether it’s more important to resettle these refugees into regional camps in familiar territory at one-twelfth the cost. If the goal is to improve these refugees’ lives, then keeping them in familiar territory is imperative. If the goal is to use a federal government program to pay the salaries for Volag fat-cats, then we shouldn’t change anything.

UniteCloud has been a leading advocate for maintaining the status quo on resettlement policy. In this post, UniteCloud spends most of their bandwidth criticizing Jeff Johnson but they made some important admissions:

Much of Jeff’s focus has been on Lutheran Social Services, since they are the only refugee resettlement agency in Central MN. He claims that LSS has not been transparent enough and, to some extent, that has been true. Because of the combative nature of some of the attendees at their quarterly meeting, LSS has limited the meeting attendance to “invite only”.

LSS, aka Lutheran Social Services, hasn’t been transparent because they don’t want people to know how little they do to earn $1,000 per refugee resettled to the United States.

The truth is that LSS isn’t in the resettlement business to help refugees. They’re in it because it’s a lucrative business that pays the lucrative salaries of their leaders. There’s no proof that LSS works with these refugees to teach them about American culture or how to assimilate or, most importantly, access the American Dream. That isn’t compassion. That’s a racket.

It’s time to rethink US refugee resettlement. The goal should be to improve the refugees’ lives at the least expensive price. We’re failing on both counts right now.

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St. Cloud City Councilman Jeff Johnson will participate in a panel discussion on the refugee resettlement program in Washington, DC this Tuesday morning. The discussion is being held at the National Press Club. It’s being hosted by the Center for Immigration Studies, aka CIS. CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian will serve as moderator to a panel that will include Councilman Johnson, CIS fellow Don Barnett and Richard Thompson, the president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center.

The Times article highlighted the fact that the Southern Poverty Law Center, aka the SPLC, has labeled the CIS as a hate group. The Times article didn’t mention the fact that the SPLC is a hyper-partisan organization that frequently lumps center-right organizations in with legitimate hate groups like the KKK.

Greg Gutfeld exposed the SPLC in a monologue:

So, this is funny. You ever heard the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)? They’re a hard left outfit that loves to label people as extremists. Their ever-growing list seems to defame everyone. Ben Carson, he’s an extremist. Rand Paul. They called Maajid Nawaz an anti-Muslim extremist and get this, he’s a moderate Muslim battling religious extremism. It makes no sense. There’s [Ayaan] Hirsi Ali, a black feminist who protests against genital mutilation. SPLC placed her name and a guy to anti-Muslim extremists. So that’s extreme, to be against genital mutilation? I wonder what they’d make of Gandhi?

But that’s not the funny part. It’s the money. This poverty center has loads of it. A $320 million endowment and chucks almost 20% of it into offshore equities. Cayman Island stuff. I don’t understand it. So this poverty group sits on a pile of offshore dough. That’s like a personal trainer with a gut. Or a priest with a harem. The Center paid out $20 million in salaries in 2015 but provided just 61 grants in legal assistance. So the Southern Poverty Law Center appears to have no poverty and do virtually no law. It’s the most misleading name since the Democratic Party. Yes, count it.

Worse, their love for calling people haters incites haters into action. The maniac who shot [House Majority Whip] Stephen Scalise liked the law center on his Facebook page. And a terrorist who attacked the Family Research Council back in 2012, shooting a security guard, did so after the SPLC labeled them a hate group. He was a fan too.

I don’t know, filthy rich, linked to violence. I think the SPLC might end up having to put itself on its own list. Indeed. It’s a pretty amazing story. I have a theory that no one goes after this group because of the name. You hear Southern Poverty Law Center, you go, oh, they must be a really good outfit and you don’t want to be on their bad side.

The SPLC is itself an extremist group. The Youtube video of Gutfeld’s monologue has been taken down. I don’t have much time for Bill Maher but I’ll make this exception:

This highlights who the SPLC is. Calling a moderate Muslim an anti-Muslim extremist tells me that the SPLC is a sham.

There is a cost associated with the refugee resettlement program but it’s intentionally kept hidden. Jeff Goerger admitted it in his resolution when he said “Now therefore be it resolved by the Council of St. Cloud, MN 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.”

There’s no disputing the fact that municipal services cost money. They’re line items in the City budget. That’s the shiny object argument, though. Whether the money is part of the City budget, the county budget or the school district’s budget, it’s still money being paid by the taxpayers. The taxpayers don’t care whether their money is taken from them to pay for health care services, rent subsidies or translators at the local schools. Whatever the money is spent on, the money isn’t at the taxpayers’ disposal. It’s money they can’t use to save for their retirements or their kids’ college education or a family vacation.

Jeff Goerger’s resolution is dripping with contempt for taxpayers. He’s determining whether families should have their taxes raised in the name of making St. Cloud a ‘welcoming city’, whatever that means. What a ‘welcoming city’ isn’t is a place where people want to live. They’re moving to other cities and other states. Capital flight is negatively affecting St. Cloud. That doesn’t matter to people like Jeff Goerger, Carol Lewis or Dave Masters. They just bury their head in the sand and pretend that everything is ok.

Thursday night at the St. Cloud Public Library, Dr. John Palmer gave a presentation based on this document. One of the primary focuses of Dr. Palmer’s presentation was to establish a set of facts so St. Cloud could have an honest discussion about the hidden costs of St. Cloud’s changing demographics.

One of the statistic sets that Dr. Palmer cited was the median household income for the major demographic groups. Dr. Palmer cited statistics from the State Demographer’s Office, which said “Median income is the point at which half the individuals earn less than that amount and half earn more. In 2015, the Median household income of Minnesotans was $60,900. Whites had a median household income of $64,100 with the next four largest groups of Minnesotans (Blacks, Mexicans, Hmong and Somali) having a substantially lower median household incomes than Whites. In order of median income, Hmong had the highest median income at $53,000 and Somalis had the lowest median income at $18,400. Black median income was $28,800 and Mexican median income was $38,500 in 2015.”

Dr. Palmer also noted the poverty rates of these demographic groups:

The largest Minnesota refugee-related population (Hmong), in 2015, have almost three times more of their population living below or near the poverty level than White Minnesotans (61% v. 21%). When the most recent (Somali) and second largest, refugee-related population are compared to White Minnesotans based on percent living below or near the poverty level, nearly four times more Somalis (21% v. 83%) live below or nearly below the poverty level than Whites. When the most recent refugee population (Somali) in Minnesota are compared to the largest and nearly 30 year resident refugee population (Hmong) in Minnesota, it appears that resettled refugees experience great challenges in escaping poverty and low-income status in the decades following resettlement.

Then Dr. Palmer observed:

“If you’re a Minnesotan and you see this data, you should be embarrassed. Something is wrong with this picture,” he said. It confirms the existence of a wide disparity in the economic health of different groups, Palmer said.

Dr. Palmer followed that up with this observation:

“When we look at the experience of the Hmong community and continuing economic challenges faced by African-Americans … we have not done, as a society, a very good job,” he said. “And then, we’ve brought in another population that have high needs.”

After Dr. Palmer’s presentation, he opened the floor to accept questions. One of the ‘questioners’ accused Dr. Palmer of cherry-picking statistics, arguing that Somalis had opened a number of businesses.

This missed the point that too many Somalis live in poverty or close to the Federal Poverty Level, aka FPL. The point Dr. Palmer tried making was that a) Minnesota hadn’t done a good job of making the American Dream available to these minority populations and b) he’s interested in finding a solution to lift these people out of poverty so they could live that American Dream.

Another questioner identified herself as a teacher at SCTCC. She asked whether Dr. Palmer put a high priority on diversity. He replied that he put a high priority on diversity of thought and that he loved America the melting pot but not America, the salad bowl, reminding people of the phrase e pluribus Unum, which means “out of many, One.”

It isn’t a stretch to think that #UniteCloud’s attendees hoped to pick a fight. As Dr. Palmer said at the outset, “If you came to hear an anti-refugee speaker you might as well leave, because I’m not that. That’s not who I am, that’s not what I do, that’s not what I want to be known of as in the community.” Nonetheless, people from #UniteCloud and ISIAIH/GRIP did their best to stir racial tension and animosity. Instead of succeeding, they exposed themselves as only interested in creating heat, not shedding light.

Put differently, Dr. Palmer came seeking a solution. #UniteCloud and ISIAIH/GRIP came to pick a fight.