McFeely: Where was the outcry when oil workers were swarming to ND?

FARGO -- Some North Dakota politicians, and perhaps a good chunk of the state's citizens, are sure fired up about outsiders coming into the state. They're worried refugees are going to arrive with hands out, and bring crime with them.

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FARGO -- Some North Dakota politicians, and perhaps a good chunk of the state’s citizens, are sure fired up about outsiders coming into the state. They’re worried refugees are going to arrive with hands out, and bring crime with them.

Never mind that 25-year Fargo police veteran Vince Kempf says crime rates are not higher for refugees compared to other populations -- “In my experience, the ratio of persons committing crime remains the same from culture to culture,” he says -- the loudest mouths know better. We assume Fargo city commissioner Dave Piepkorn will have the wherewithal to call Officer Kempf a liar, as he has done to others who didn’t tell him what he wanted to hear.

Facts don’t often matter in the modern world, so the politicians and angry citizens continue to say that we need to make sure we know who these outsiders are. Let’s account for the public money the taxpayers spend to support them, they say. Let’s find out the strain they put on schools, they say. Let’s keep track of the crimes they commit, they say.

And so North Dakota’s enlightened Legislature will ponder a bill that can be used as a tool to keep refugees from settling in the state, which was the goal of the “we’re just trying to protect the taxpayer” crowd all along. House Bill 1427 is a copycat bill, having been introduced into other state legislatures in various forms under the guise of something called “absorptive capacity.”

It’s supposed to sound fancy, like there is some sort of scientific formula to determine how many refugees a state or community can withstand before breaking, but it amounts to nothing more than prejudice hidden under pseudo-intellectualism.


Considering similar bills have been deemed unconstitutional already in other states, this seems like a waste of time and effort, but North Dakota has not been known recently as a place unwilling to waste precious taxpayer dollars fighting fights it knows it can’t win.

The bill would require local governments to evaluate their capacity to handle refugees based on available social services, educational facilities, health care facilities and law enforcement capabilities. It also insists evaluations be done to to make sure refugees won’t compete with locals for jobs, or adversely affect wages of the local workforce.

And there is this gem, which supporters insist is in no way racist or xenophobic: To “assure law and order can be maintained,” law enforcement has to report crimes committed by or against refugees, singling out child abuse, female genital mutilation, domestic abuse, sex or human trafficking or terrorism, “whether prosecuted or not.”

Repeat: Whether prosecuted or not. So an accusation now is counted as a crime. Odd how those who like to wrap themselves in the Constitution for marketing purposes are willing throw civil liberties aside as it suits them. ’Merica.

But remember, supporters say this bill is not racist or xenophobic. It’s all about protecting taxpayer dollars. Transparency, to use the buzzword. To include language that essentially says refugees, many of whom are black, threaten the peace and are prone to commit child abuse, domestic abuse or sex trafficking … how could that be construed as racist?

It’s funny how these protectors of the taxpayer, these titans of transparency, weren’t concerned about straining local services and school districts when North Dakota was being overrun by new residents a few years ago. It was the height of the oil boom and, along with many remarkable people who came to the state, every down-and-out loser looking to make a quick buck was pouring into western North Dakota.

Drug dealers, pimps, scam artists, rapists, murderers and domestic abusers were all setting up camp in the Oil Patch. Sex trafficking, adult and child, was rampant. Local law enforcement and the feds kept saying how big the issue was and were begging for more help, but it fell on deaf ears.

Local social services were under tremendous pressure. Many new residents came to North Dakota homeless and unemployed. Lack of affordable housing was a major issue. School districts were forced to handle an influx of hundreds of new students, many of whom were unprepared for the classroom. The number of homeless students who weren’t having their basic needs met because they were living in cars or campers increased in Williston from 20 to nearly 200 in a few years, according to the superintendent. It was left to the schools to deal with it.


It was a much more critical situation than what’s happening now with refugees. Yet lawmakers didn’t lift a finger to slow the torrent of newcomers. They didn’t require a list of crimes committed by oil company employees. Nobody cared whether Clyde from Oklahoma had a job when he got here. North Dakota welcomed him because he was chasing the American dream of a good job and a better life. The cost to taxpayers wasn’t a concern.

Now, though, when Fawzia from Somalia wants to come to North Dakota with the hope of a good job and a better life for her family, legislators and city commissioners want “transparency.” Politicians are concerned whether she’ll be a good neighbor.

Clyde from Oklahoma and Fawzia from Somalia. Both from outside North Dakota, both coming here with nothing, both wanting to work, both possibly needing help from social services (but not necessarily). Clyde was welcomed with no questions asked. Not so much for Fawzia.

Hmmm. Strange.

I wonder what the difference could be?

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