Depending on how a local commission votes Monday, the population of Burleigh County, North Dakota, could look different in the very near future.
For the first time in history, state and local governments have the authority to refuse to accept refugees, thanks to an executive order issued by President Trump in September. A commission in Burleigh County will vote Monday whether to bar new refugees from resettling in the county, home to 95,000 people. The state capital, Bismarck, is in the county, and Mayor Steve Bakken told The Associated Press he is concerned by how much refugees cost. "This isn't abut heartstrings, this is about purse strings," he said.
In North Dakota, there are plenty of career opportunities — there are about 30,000 more jobs available than workers, AP reports. That's why Shirley Dykshoorn, vice president of Lutheran Social Services, finds the argument that North Dakota can't handle more refugees ludicrous. "I'm trying to understand the basis for believing how 25 people will dramatically change the fabric of a community," she said. "What does it say to the rest of the country when a county where your capital city is located would choose not to participate?"
Lutheran Social Services handles refugee resettlement cases for the state, and Dykshoorn said that while they used to have 400 cases every year, that number dropped to 124 this fiscal year. In Cass and Grand Forks counties, officials said refugees will still be accepted; Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney told AP refugees are necessary to boost the city’s economy, and 90 percent are fully employed within three months of arrival. One refugee who found happiness in North Dakota is Reuben Panchol. A father of four, he fled Sudan during the civil war. He earned his degrees from North Dakota colleges and works at the state’s Department of Environmental Quality. "I am an American citizen, a North Dakotan," he told AP. "And without North Dakota, I couldn't have made it."