FARGO - A Fargo police official agrees with national studies indicating crime rates do not vary significantly among refugee populations compared to other populations.
"There are good and bad people in every population" Cultural Liaison Officer Vince Kempf said in a news release issued by the Fargo Human Relations Commission. "In my experience, the ratio of persons committing crime remains the same from culture to culture. From a law enforcement perspective, the cost of refugees being placed in Fargo is impossible to calculate."
Immigrants are actually less likely to be criminals than people born in this country, according to 2010 American Community Survey statistics cited in the release.
The community survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, shows an incarceration rate of 1.6 percent for immigrant males ages 18 to 39, compared with a 3.3 percent rate for males of the same age group born in the U.S.
Kempf, a 25-year Fargo Police Department veteran, said it is not possible for him to provide hard numbers, because immigration status is not routinely collected when a person enters the criminal justice system. In his experience, however, he believes crime rates amongs refugee populations are similar to those in other populations.
Kempf is the liaison to the Human Relations Commission, which has been tasked with answering what the refugee resettlement program costs Fargo.
The most visible proponent for gathering that information is City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn, who has asked for an accounting of what refugee resettlement costs Fargo. He is also seeking more local input on where refugees are placed.
North Dakota lawmakers recently proposed a bill that would create a way for communities to request temporary bans on new refugee resettlement and would grant the governor power to impose such a ban statewide.
If House Bill 1427 is passed into law, local governments could apply to stop refugee resettlement in their communities, either through the governor's office or Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota (the group federally contracted to resettle refugees in the state).
A ban could last up to a year and so could an extension of the ban, the bill states.
As the bill now stands, a local government would need to conduct a public hearing and issue a finding that further resettlement of refugees in the host community would result in an adverse impact to residents.
The bill's main sponsor is Rep. Chris Olson, R-West Fargo. Piepkorn said he visited with Olson about the bill before it was introduced and that he is "totally in support of it."
According to the American Immigration Council, the foreign-born share of the U.S. population grew from 7.9 percent to 13.1 percent between 1990 and 2013 and the number of unauthorized immigrants more than tripled from 3.5 million to 11.2 million.
During that same period, FBI data shows the violent crime rate - aggravated assault, robbery, rape and murder - declined 48 percent, and the property crime rate (motor vehicle theft, larceny, robbery and burglary) fell 41 percent.