St. Cloud councilman weighs temporary ban on refugee resettlement

A city councilman in St. Cloud, Minnesota, is weighing a controversial provision to put a temporary moratorium on refugee resettlement in the city, prompting several groups to decry the measure before it's been officially introduced.

Councilman Jeff Johnson had planned to bring the motion up at Monday's St. Cloud City Council meeting, but now says he's waiting until November because he wants all council members present. 

However, the city's mayor and several other council members say the real reason is because Johnson doesn’t have any support for the measure.

The provision, Johnson said, aims to put a moratorium on refugee resettlement in the city until an economic impact study can be conducted into how much refugees cost the city.

“It’s unlikely this will pass.” Johnson said. “But I think the bigger core issue is that it gets discussed.”

The Executive Director of the Minnesota Council on American-Islamic Relations, Jaylani Hussein, is concerned Johnson’s approach reflects a growing number of Islamophobic people within the community--the same community an increasing number of Somalis call home.

“This definitely sends the wrong message,” Hussein said. “And it shows the level of organizing by the anti-Muslim groups who have been using language around immigration to mask their racist agenda and bigotry agenda to push against immigrant population.”

Johnson, however, pushes back against the idea that the motion is rooted in racism or xenophobia.

“To get off track and say this is about racism ... nowhere in this resolution - and you can read if for yourself - does it mention anything about religion or country,” he said. “It is about the program and its economic impact on the City of St Cloud.”

The mayor, along with several members of city council, call Johnson’s motion unconstitutional, adding they should be focused on local issues and not the federally controlled Refugee Resettlement Program.

“We’ve talked about this a lot and he doesn’t want to stop until he gets his way,” Councilman Jeff Goerger said. “I just think it’s the wrong direction to go.”

CAIR is urging people to petition the city against the measure. You can find that document here.