Bill Could Study Refugee Resettlement

The North Dakota House of Representatives passed legislation Feb. 20 calling for a study of refugee resettlement in North Dakota.

The bill passed easily, winning 86-5.

House bill 1427 states, “The study must include consideration of the impact, if any, of refugees on the wages or working conditions of the local workforce, state and local law enforcement, state and local government services, housing, the provision of medical care, child care, translation and interpreter services, and public education, including the provision of English language training.”

The study will examine federal and state laws on refugee resettlement, and both economic and social conditions of the refugees’ country of origin.

Refugee age, gender and other demographics will also be considered.

Stakeholders in refugee resettlement, such as agencies, law enforcement and clinical service providers, will be asked to contribute input to the study.

The initial version of the bill may have caused suspension of refugee resettlement in a community, if the community was unable to provide the proper services to meet the needs of residents.

However, the version of the bill passed was amended to a mere study of refugee resettlement.

Kjersten Nelson, an associate professor of political science at North Dakota State, said the change will prevent any direct effect to the refugee resettlement program in North Dakota.

If passed without the modifications, the bill could have warranted legal action against the legislation, as the issue has been addressed by the Supreme Court.

“State and local governments, under current precedent, cannot interfere with the federal government’s authority over immigration and resettlement policy.”

As it stands, the bill remains in line with a variety of other studies conducted by the state throughout the biennium.

Opponents to the original form of the bill included refugees who gave testimony to the negative message it implied, as well as businesses that rely on refugee labor in light of labor shortages in the area.

Attempts to pass similar legislation have occurred in other states.

Ultimately, the bill, as passed, does not have the ability to change the refugee resettlement program in the state.

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