This County May Be First to Bar New Refugees

North Dakota county will vote on Monday
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 9, 2019 2:54 AM CST
North Dakota County to Vote on Barring New Refugees
Faith leaders and members of human rights groups are arrested during a protest urging Congress not to end refugee resettlement program.   (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

Reuben Panchol was forced to leave war-torn Sudan decades ago as a child, embarking on an odyssey that eventually brought him to the American Midwest and left him eternally grateful to the country that took him in. "I am an American citizen, a North Dakotan,” said Panchol, a 38-year-old father of four. “And without North Dakota, I couldn’t have made it.” Panchol hopes to share his story on Monday with members of a local commission who are set to vote on whether their county will stop accepting refugees. If they vote to bar refugees, as expected, Burleigh County—home to about 95,000 people and the capital city of Bismarck—could become the first local government to do so since President Trump issued an executive order making it possible, the AP reports.

Bismarck Mayor Steve Bakken said the city government has no say in the matter, but he sides with those who want to stop taking in more refugees."We have burgeoning school enrollment, veterans’ needs, homeless needs, and Native American needs," he says. "This isn’t about heartstrings, this is about purse strings." Shirley Dykshoorn, a vice president for Lutheran Social Services, which handles all of North Dakota's refugee resettlement cases, says Burleigh County had been projected to get no more than 25 refugees annually in the coming years. "I'm trying to understand the basis for believing how 25 people will dramatically change the fabric of a community," she says.

(Read more North Dakota stories.)

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