FARGO - Are refugees moving to the area an "unfunded mandate" for local governments? That's the question City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn wants answered.
He told fellow commissioners Monday, Sept. 26, that, including spending by the county, by cities and school districts, he believes it could be "millions and millions of dollars every year."
Piepkorn said he'd also like to know who decides how many refugees are settled in Fargo-Moorhead because he's certain local governments have no input, which is the definition of an unfunded mandate.
Commissioner John Strand, a former Fargo School Board member, said the extra costs to schools is "not that quantifiably significant" compared to what most people think. A descendant of "unsavory" Irish immigrant, he reminded Piepkorn that nearly everyone in Fargo-Moorhead, other than American Indians, are from somewhere else so the real question is how to integrate a diverse population.
Commissioner Tony Grindberg said the discussion is appropriate given how much the stabbings in St. Cloud, Minn., have resonated here.
Dahir Adan, 20, who stabbed 10 people at a St. Cloud mall, about a week ago, had once lived in Fargo after his family fled war-torn Somalia. He was 1 at the time. The terror group ISIS has called Adan one of its soldiers but his link to the group is not yet clear to investigators.
Somalis here have said they worried their children would be lured by ISIS. They also worried about a backlash against law-abiding members of their community.
Piepkorn said he would also like to know if refugees coming here are screened to ensure they're law-abiding and that they have health screenings.
Mayor Tim Mahoney said he understands the federal screening is quite stringent. He tasked city staff with finding the answers to Piepkorn's questions.
Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo have received a total of 6,220 refugees since 1997 - more than three times the number who arrived in Grand Forks and Bismarck combined, according to Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota.
Cass County commissioners recently said they were concerned about the burden on county social services.