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A Conversation About Refugee Resettlment

The Fargo Human Relations Commission has released the findings of a study looking at refugee resettlement programs. The study was called for by City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn last October. Piepkorn was critical of the programs and questioned the cost of the programs to a city. In delivering a summary of the report, Human Relations Commission member Barry Nelson says the results reflect how a community can benefit from resettlement programs which he says help boost the regional workforce. Nelson says there are gaps in the programs and City, County and State leaders can help address those issues. Nelson says he is encouraged by the findings, which he says even surprised him…

“…I was really surprised at how strong the economic… and you’ve heard this here, I think… in terms of things intertwines with our economic well being as a community. I knew that it was there, but I didn’t realize how strong it was. I think it’s something we need to use as a cornerstone as we go forward.”

Along with economic impacts and benefits, the report also looked at cultural and public safety implications. Fargo Police Officer Vince Kempf is the department’s Cultural Liaison Officer. He sums it up by saying “people are people…”

       “…I have the opportunity to meet many different kinds of people. People from different countries, people that speak different languages… They’ve even caused me to try and learn the Nepali language – which I am struggling with right now – but, these questions, everyone would feel at ease and at rest with these issues if they’d just, like I do in my normal job, go out and meet people. You go out and you meet them and you find here’s people that are working three jobs, they don’t have enough time to sleep. Or they struggle with the same things everyone else struggles with. And I would suggest get out there, meet people and you’ll find that what you might have in your head, thinking about what these people are like, might be totally incorrect.”

Nelson says while the study is complete, the work by the Commission isn’t.  He says the stakeholders will be continuing the effort to inform and educate people about stopping discrimination and work toward creating a welcoming community.

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