Spotlight on Mis & Dis-information, Social Media & Refugee Resettlement Talk in Northern Minnesota

Feb 11, 2020

This week we put together a program to learn more about some of the recent rumors and controversy surrounding refugee resettlement in northern MN.  That got us thinking ahead to election 2020 and how we as citizens can spot false information designed to stir up communities.

 

Throughout Spotlight we heard from local officials and reporters like Beltrami County Commissioner Reed Olson, Marshall Helmberger from the Timberjay newspaper and data reporter Greta Kaul from MinnPost. 

We also met Fatima Said – once a refugee from Bosnia who resettled and stayed in Minnesota.  She’ll tell us her personal story and tell us about her organization in Winona Project FINE, that welcomes and assists new refugees and immigrants in Minnesota.

Sarah Bignall helped me begin our conversation about checking our own media habits and sources of information.

And Bob Garfield – cohost of WNYC’s On the Media talks with us about his new book “American Manifesto:  Saving Democracy From Villains, Vandals, and Ourselves”.

SO WHY THIS TOPIC ON SPOTLIGHT?

President Trump issued an executive order last September to give local governments the authority to decide if they would accept refugees for resettlement.

Refugees, as defined by the  United Nations is a person who has fled their home country due to persecution (due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a social group), war or violence.

The Immigrant Law Center of MN says that refugees are the most screened migrants to enter the U.S.  After they are screened by the United Nations they undergo a U.S. screening process that involves 8 security agencies and lasts a minimum of 18-24 months.

In the state of MN the farthest northern resettlement is St. Cloud.  This means that counties like Beltrami, Itasca and St. Louis are nearly 100 miles outside of any possible resettlement.

When a place is found for a refugee – they must sign a promissory note to pay back the cost of their plane ticket. 

One misconception about refugees is the state of MN is that they don’t pay taxes or they get free housing.  This is not true.  Most refugees, once arriving, enter the workforce and contribute to MN’s economy and expansion of our tax base.

So let’s focus in on misinformation about refugees that has been posted and shared on social media especially in northern Minnesota.

Many of these rumors have said that thousands or even 6000 refugees will be arriving in counties unless the vote is NO by a county board.

The numbers don’t add up.  Refugees allowed into the US and MN has been decreasing – especially in MN.

In 2019 891 total refugees came to the state of MN.  They were resettled in many different places, none north of St. Cloud.

In 2018 663 refugees were resettled in Minnesota. 

Also an interesting twist to this issue – a federal judge recently issued a temporary block on President Trump’s executive order – which makes the issue uncertain right now.

Here are some additional sources of information:

MN Legislative Reference Library's Resource Guide to Immigrants in Minnesota

Immigrant Law Center of MN

Advocates for Human Rights

MinnPost

Hibbing Daily Tribune's columnist Aaron Brown

Opinion piece from Minn Post from Lyon County, MN that met about refugee resettlement