The recent effort by some Burleigh County residents to put a stop to refugee influx has attracted national attention.

As the Los Angeles Times reported this week, Burleigh came close to becoming one of the first places in the country to explicitly turn away immigrant refugees.

It all started with the Trump Administration's recent executive order allowing state and local constituencies the option of restricting, or banning outright, resettlement of refugees.

The county commission shot down the proposal by a 3-2 vote. A few days later, Beltrami County in Minnesota voted in favor of a similar proposal. This week Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said this state would reject resettlement of new refugees, becoming the first state known to do so.

As the Times article notes, the controversy is new to North Dakota. Immigrants from a number of nations have settled here for decades with very little fanfare. That all changed with the rise of Donald Trump to the presidency.

Feeling empowered by the election of Trump, many socially conservative "know-nothings" have come forward, and their rhetoric is often ugly: "“These people come and destroy everything they touch,” said one posting on a local social media page.

Politicians have also jumped on the bandwagon. Bismarck Mayor Steve Bakken is quoted in the Times article: “If we can’t meet the needs of people here, why bring new ones in?”

Immigrants are dismayed and their defenders, not with justification, cite racism as a factor. “Why do people say terrible things?” said one recent arrival from Africa. “They don’t even know us.”

[Source: Los Angeles Times online]

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