Refugees will not be allowed to resettle within Kanabec County in 2020 unless the Kanabec County Board of Commissioners chooses to “opt-in” before Jan. 31.

On Sept. 26, 2019, President Trump issued an executive order requiring both state and local governments consent to the federal government before refugees can be resettled in their jurisdictions. Beginning June 1, 2020, the order will generally apply to all arriving refugees.

On Dec. 13, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz offered consent to continue refugee resettlement in the state of Minnesota. This means in order to allow refugees to be resettled in Kanabec County, the Board of Commissioners would also have to vote to opt in. 

While introducing the issue during the Dec. 18 county board meeting, County Coordinator Kris McNally recommended not voting on the issue because so much was still in flux. She cited that Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and other attorneys general have sought to block Trumps’ executive order, claiming it violates the Refugee Act of 1980.

The board began to ask Kris several questions which she did not have answers for. 

Commissioners Dennis McNally and Craig Smith immediately spoke against opting in. 

Commissioner Kathi Ellis expressed concern about how declining to opt-in would affect local families she knew were Ukranian refugees. 

The executive order applies to all arriving refugees, including those seeking to reunite with family members already in Minnesota. After a refugee is initially resettled elsewhere, they could later move to the county. 

Commissioners Gene Anderson and Les Nielsen supported doing nothing because they had too many unanswered questions about the order and its impacts. 

The board chose not to vote on the issue, thus not opting-in to accept any new refugees for the year 2020. The board can still vote until Jan. 31, 2020 to accept refugees for 2020.

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