Local View: Choose inclusion and love, not division and fear
The Interfaith Committee for Migrant Justice in Duluth is grateful that the St. Louis County Board and county administration made it possible for public comments to be communicated in a variety of forms as part of the consideration of a board resolution to give consent to refugee resettlement (“Topic of refugees raises citizen voices in St. Louis County,” May 27).
We are pleased that Commissioners Mike Jugovich and Paul McDonald spoke about the amount of misinformation from some of those who called in to comment.
We also heard Commissioner McDonald say that over 70% of refugees are Christians, and we wondered what the reaction would be if that percentage was for Muslims. His words, “We are willing to take refugees," seemed to not balance with his vote to postpone the resolution.
Some of us were shocked at the level of fear and contempt, as well as the level of ignorance, demonstrated regarding refugees. We want to clarify that the term “refugee” is not synonymous with “immigrant” — legal or illegal. Refugees are a particular type of immigrant, who are not only limited in number but who have been carefully vetted and approved to enter the United States. Refugees are people who have left everything they know and everything they own — their home, business, church, and more — to escape to a foreign country because their choice was that or death.
Many of us have come from immigrants who made the conscious decision to leave their country without fearing for their lives and could return to that country. Or we are Native Americans or descendants of enslaved people.
We believe we should be welcoming of refugees to our county. We wonder how people in our county who are opposed to refugee resettlement would feel if the situation was reversed, if they were the ones in a war zone and were denied a place to go.
We are appreciative of the stories of compassion and hope that we heard during the May 26 County Board meeting, as we can learn from the stories of people being helped by immigrants. We also appreciated the words spoken by Commissioner Beth Olson, who said, "We need them (the refugees) as much as they need us." We also liked how Commissioners Patrick Boyle and Frank Jewell spoke up for the Hmong people and how immigration has helped “make our country.”
Although we were disappointed that our elected leaders failed to stand up to express who we are in St Louis County, the Interfaith Committee for Migrant Justice will continue to let it be known to all that ours is an open and welcoming community. In the coming weeks, we will be out in the community, bringing people together with the message that inclusion and love, not division and fear, will enable us to face the challenges ahead.
Dory Sjoblom of Duluth is a convener for the Interfaith Committee for Migrant Justice, a group formed in April 2019 when faith communities in Duluth organized a walk and vigil to bring awareness to the plight of migrants along the southern U.S. border. The group advocates for migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.