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Lyon Co. sets date, location for refugee hearing

Nobles, Murray, Pipestone counties give consent for resettlement

MARSHALL — After a request for consent to resettle refugees in Lyon County drew more public comments than time allowed, county commissioners will be holding a special meeting on the topic.

The Lyon County Administrator’s office announced that the meeting will be held Jan. 28 in the basement of the Law Enforcement Center in Marshall.

The public comment meeting comes after United Community Action Partnership requested the county’s consent to continue resettlement services, which reunite refugees with family members living in Lyon County. UCAP representatives say the organization has worked with a total of 37 refugees in Lyon County over the past three years.

UCAP is seeking approval for refugee resettlement in Lyon and Nobles counties, the two areas where the organization works with refugees.

Lyon County is one of several Minnesota counties considering whether or not to allow refugee resettlement. In September, President Donald Trump issued an executive order requiring state and local governments to give written consent to the federal government for refugees to be resettled in their jurisdictions. Gov. Tim Walz gave consent for resettlement within the state of Minnesota in December.

UCAP presented its request to Lyon County commissioners on Tuesday. However, the discussion time was mostly taken up by comments from members of the public. The majority of the comments were negative, with area residents saying that providing human services for refugees and immigrants was too costly, and raising concerns about having new populations in communities and schools. More than once, county commissioners reminded the audience that only the refugee resettlement issue was up for discussion, not broader questions about immigration.

Members of the public are invited to attend the hearing, at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 28, at the Law Enforcement Center. The County Administrator’s Office will also be accepting written comments and questions until Jan. 27.

Several southwestern Minnesota counties have already acted on refugee resettlement. Kandiyohi and Brown counties gave their consent in December. On Tuesday, Nobles, Murray and Pipestone counties all approved letters of consent to accept refugee resettlement, reported the Globe newspaper of Worthington.

On Tuesday night, Beltrami County in northern Minnesota became the first in the state to ban the resettlement of refugees, the Associated Press reported. By a 3-2 vote, the Beltrami County board of commissioners voted to deny consent to refugee resettlement. The move is allowed by local governments under an executive order signed by President Trump.

“I think we will be making history today,” Commissioner Reed Olson said before the vote.

Olson was one of two commissioners who voted for refugee resettlement.

However, the move will have little practical effect as no refugees have been resettled in Beltrami County in the past five years.

The vote drew applause from many of the crowd of more than 150 people crowding the board chambers in Bemidji, which is about 140 miles northwest of Duluth.

The meeting was marked by jeers, shouts and accusations from the crowd, most of the members of which opposed refugee resettlement.

The nation’s first county to ban refugee resettlement was Appomattox County, Virginia, where commissioners voted 4-1 on Dec. 17 to deny consent to resettlement. The Beltrami County vote came a night after commissioners in Burleigh County in neighboring North Dakota voted 3-2 to limit refugee resettlement to 25 people in 2020.

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