Minnesota county votes to reject refugees

Beltrami County, Minn., on Tuesday voted to reject refugee resettlement under an executive order from President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenators demand more details from Trump on intel watchdog firing Overnight Health Care: Trump steps up attack on WHO | Fauci says deaths could be lower than first projected | House panel warns federal stockpile of medical supplies depleted | Mnuchin, Schumer in talks over relief deal Trump says he'll look into small business loan program restricting casinos MORE that allows state and local governments to do just that, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The county, which went for Trump by about 10 points in the 2016 election, has not accepted any refugees in at least five years, making the vote largely symbolic; however, the 3-2 vote by the county board makes it one of only a few nationwide to formally close the county to refugees.

"I think we will be making history today,” said Beltrami County Commissioner Reed Olson, who voted in favor of accepting refugees, according to the Star Tribune.


“I’m disappointed. But I understood that this executive order was meant to be divisive. … It should have never been [pushed] down to the county levels,” Gov. Tim WalzTimothy (Tim) James WalzPress: America's governors lead the way on virus Idaho governor issues stay-at-home order for 21 days amid coronavirus spread Walmart, grocers adding sneeze guards for cashiers MORE (D) told the Star Tribune of the county’s vote.

Walz is one of several governors from both parties who have agreed to accept refugees; Missouri’s Mike Parson and Maryland’s Larry Hogan are among the Republicans who have OK'd resettlement.

Officials have until Jan. 21 to respond to the executive order. Several other Minnesota counties have submitted letters of consent, including Hennepin and Dakota counties, both of which are in the top five counties in the state for refugee resettlement.

Minnesota’s Somali refugee population has been a frequent rhetorical target of Trump’s, with the president telling attendees of an October rally in Minneapolis, “You should be able to decide what is best for your own cities and your own neighborhoods.”

Bob Oehrig, executive director of Arrive Ministries, one of Minnesota’s refugee resettlement agencies, told the newspaper he was somewhat mystified by the vote, saying Beltrami is “not a county that’s really had any refugee resettlement. … I don’t know what they’d be voting for or against.”