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House passes refugee study

The House has approved a study of refugee resettlement in North Dakota.

As originally proposed, the measure would have determined a community’s capacity to absorb refugees, and would have allowed a community to put a moratorium on accepting refugees. In North Dakota, three cities – Fargo, Bismarck and Grand Forks – have refugee resettlement programs. The bill was amended to call for a study of the effects refugees have on the state of North Dakota, and the role the state should have in the program.

Rep. Mary Schneider (D-Fargo) asked that the bill be rejected.

"It's half a study, and half the truth," Schneider said. "You're getting the half that was conceived in ignorance and fear, and borne in prejudice and suspicion, because the study was given life from a mean-spirited bill."

The bill's sponsor -- Rep. Christopher Olson (R-West Fargo) -- asked for an apology. He told the House the bill was simply introduced to get a handle on any costs refugee settlement programs have to the three cities.

"This is an unfunded mandate," Olson said.

Rep. Jim Kasper (R-Fargo) said this could improve the refugee resettlement program.

"The cities have a right to know what the ramifications are -- both good, and if there is bad, we need to know that," Kasper said. "I don't think there is bad. There's cost -- but I don't think it's bad. Those people are marvelous people."

The bill passed 86 to 5 – and will now be considered in the state Senate.