Beltrami County becomes first county in Minnesota to ban refugee resettlement under Trump order

A county in northern Minnesota has become the first in the state to ban the resettlement of refugees.

The measure was passed Tuesday by the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners in a close 3 to 2 vote in support of banning future refugee resettlement. The move set off a Twitter firestorm, with Minnesota House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, a Democrat representing Golden Valley, threatening to cut state funding.

"If the Beltrami County board wants to withdraw from the state and not accept refugees, why should the rest of the state help them?" tweeted Winkler.

In a statement, State Representative Matt Grossell, a Republican out of Clearbrook, called Winkler's comments disturbing and arrogant.

"Obviously, we’re not going to do anything about funding for the county because it supports a lot of people in need, but the point is, you shouldn’t be asking for having it both ways," argued Rep. Winkler.

Winkler says it’s particularly disappointing because he was born and raised in Beltrami County.

"This is an entirely symbolic and unnecessary vote taken," explained Winkler. "It’s hard to see what the motivation would be other than to intentionally stoke division and fear because there’s no one actually seeking refuge in Beltrami County."

The board’s vote follows an executive order from President Trump that gave local governments the power to opt-out of resettlement programs. Beltrami County is now the first in the state and the second in the country to ban new refugees.

"I think that the executive order is fundamentally unlawful, it violates state sovereignty and it shouldn't exist at all," said Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.

"We should not be excluding from any area based on who we want or who we think is desirable or undesirable," said Winkler. "That is not the role of county government and there’s a long, ugly history of that in the U.S. that we should have well behind us."

Governor Tim Walz says the state will continue resettling refugees in counties that approve their placements. In December, the attorney general announced that he had joined a lawsuit with 12 other states challenging Trump's executive order.