The Barron County Board of Supervisors will consider a recommendation from its Executive Committee next Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, that would put the county on record in support of accepting additional refugees in keeping with new guidelines announced by the Trump Administration last September.
In its regular monthly meeting Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, the Executive Committee unanimously approved a resolution made by Supervisor Russell Rindsig, Dist. 17, Haugen, and seconded by Supervisor Dana Paul Heller, Dist. 23, Rice Lake.
Committee members reviewed a draft of a letter to be sent to U.S. Sec. of State Mike Pompeo, which would put the county on record as consenting “to initial refugee resettlement in Barron County” in accordance with an executive order signed by the president last year.
County Administrator Jeff French told the committee that under Wisconsin law, “our voice (as the County Board) is the only voice heard in Wisconsin” with respect to the refugee issue. “Municipalities may support (refugee resettlement) but it wouldn’t matter” in terms of state regulations, he added.
French emphasized the letter “applies only to vetted, legal refugees,” who have undergone State Department scrutiny, have not committed felonies and who have been medically cleared to enter the country.
French said the U.S. has agreements with 27 other nations to admit legally vetted refugees. Past administrations have allowed for as many as 150,000 refugees per year, but the current quota announced by the Trump administration is 32,000, he added.
Members of the Somali community approached the Barron City Council in January regarding the executive order.
Local authorities were informed in January that counties “are the smallest bodies of government that can provide consent” to accepting legal refugees.
County Board Chair Louie Okey, Dist. 16, town of Oak Grove, said he was informed by Wisconsin Public Radio that if the County Board doesn’t formally consent to the program or remains silent, “it’s the same as opting out” of legal refugee resettlement.
Under current federal funding guidelines, “only refugees with direct U.S. ties (such as family or friends) who are already present in the county could be resettled directly from overseas.”