The debate over whether counties should accept refugees moves to Cook County on Tuesday.
In a report to the board, County Attorney Molly Hicken recommended that the commissioners “either discuss and consent to allowing resettlement here, or discuss and consciously decide to exclude refugees from resettlement in Cook County.”
The board meets at 8:30 a.m.
The issue arises because of an executive order issued by President Donald Trump on Sept. 26 requiring consent by local governments before a refugee could be resettled in their jurisdiction.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz already has issued a consent order on behalf of the state, but localities also must assent if refugees are to be allowed.
So far, Beltrami County has declined to give consent. But 10 counties have given consent, Hicken reported. The St. Louis County Board last week tabled the issue, pushing a decision back to May. Bans on accepting refugees would go into effect June 1.
But it may be a different story in Cook County. "I don't believe there is a groundswell of people opposing consent," Hicken said in an interview.
In fact, she related that one of the commissioners told her he had received a number of emails on the issue, and none of them opposed permitting refugees to locate in Cook County.
In her report, Hicken noted that no refugees have resettled in Cook County in the past 10 years.
As a practical matter, it's not likely that any will anytime soon, regardless of how the board votes. No resettlement agency is located within 100 miles of the county, Hicken said. As long as that is the case, refugees can't legally be resettled in the county.
Regarding financial implications, she reported that the Minnesota Department of Human Services “supports the statewide resettlement of refugees and their effective integration into Minnesota communities.” The agency’s resettlement office receives about $5 million annually in federal funding, according to Hicken.
Some residents have expressed concern that Cook County already lacks sufficient affordable housing, she said. But resettlement agencies are obligated to see that housing is available before bringing in refugees.
Although providing information, Hicken isn't offering a recommendation as to how the board should vote, she said..
A DHS report notes 7,739 refugees have resettled in Minnesota during the past five years.