Nobles County approves acceptance of Refugee Resettlement
WORTHINGTON - The Nobles County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved acceptance of the Refugee Resettlement program - something that became necessary after President Donald Trump issued an executive order in September requiring each state and county in the U.S. to send documentation that refugees will be accepted.
Michelle Jenson of United Community Action Partnership said they have been working in partnership with Catholic Charities since 2014 to provide refugee resettlement, helping nine families since 2016 settle in Nobles County.
Jenson said they help people who have fled their home country because of war or violence. There is a very thorough vetting process that takes place overseas prior to the family or individual being resettled, and they only accept people who have a U.S. tie or anchor.
"They have a family member they would be reuniting with, and we make contact with that anchor to make sure they are ready to assist in the process," Jenson said.
Of the nine families who have moved to Nobles County as refugees, all of the adults have been gainfully employed within their first 60 days here and are contributing members of the community, Jenson said. They get just under $1,200 to help them get established, and also receive a travel loan to get here, which has to be paid back within three years.
Prior to the Trump order, the federal government was required to consult with state and local governments, but was not bound to act in accordance with their desires.
Not responding with the needed documentation would be the equivalent of saying no refugees would be accepted in the county, which Jenson said would only mean the refugees would settle in a different part of the state, likely the metro area, then relocate to the area, but without the services to get them established.
Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson said he has received phone calls about the subject, and believes there is confusion about refugee resettlement and undocumented or documented immigrants seeking asylum.
"This is a completely different issue," he stated.
The commissioners voted unanimously to accept refugee resettlement in the county. Nobles County is the second most diverse county in the state.
Other counties across the state have already voted or are scheduled to vote on the issue today or in the near future. In December, Minnesota Gov Tim Walz pledged support for refugees, and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison joined other states in a lawsuit challenging the executive order.