Wisconsin – a key battleground in the 2024 presidential election – is currently a battleground over the debate over refugee resettlement.
Wisconsin officials sought to meet with officials from the Department of Homeland Security about the first group of Somali refugees settling in the Eau Claire County area of the state. This issue has received the attention of members of Congress.
This week, state lawmakers are scheduled to introduce a bill that would require greater transparency about relocation decisions. Federal law already requires federal officials to “consult regularly (at least quarterly) with state and local governments” before settling refugees in an area. The state legislation specifically requires consultation with “elected officials” accountable to the public — not just appointed officials — in addition to a public comment requirement.
Republican Representative Karen Hurd introduced the bill, noting that the region is already tense after the closure of two hospitals and tense school districts.
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“Wisconsin citizens are the most generous, giving, kind, practical people. This isn’t about that. This is because we didn’t even know,” Hurd told Fox News Digital. “We are pragmatic. We need to evaluate whether we can do it or not. We don’t care about the color of someone’s skin. It’s about infrastructure.”
Hurd said she expects the Republican-controlled Legislature to pass the bill but is unsure what Democratic Gov. Tony Evers will do when the bill reaches his desk.
The Department of Homeland Security is working with World Relief, a Christian nonprofit associated with the National Association of Evangelicals, to bring 75 Somali refugees to the Eau Claire area of the Chippewa Valley by September 30. Some residents, legislators and advocacy groups worry that the federal reunification policy could lead to a much larger influx of refugees.
Somali refugee settlements in Minnesota, neighboring Wisconsin, have swelled into the millions within two decades, noted Reclaim America, which first reported on the Wisconsin case. Minneapolis, located about 100 miles from Eau Claire, has the largest Somali population in the country. The FBI reported in 2019 that dozens of military-age men in the city had joined terrorist organizations.
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“The refugee resettlement plan will end not with 75 Somalis, but perhaps thousands, as each refugee will later be allowed to import close and extended family members — such as cousins and grandparents — into Wisconsin under the federal family reunification policy,” said Hayden Ludwig, director of policy research from To take back America, he told Fox News Digital.
“Within a few years, local people could find their communities, schools and emergency services overwhelmed with refugees from failed countries, likely including Syria — although global aid officials wouldn’t tell us from which,” Ludwig said.
Eau Claire City Manager Stephanie Hirsch, an appointed official, made the agreement with World Relief for the resettlement without consulting the elected Eau Claire County Council, Hurd said. Eau Claire County and the City of Eau Claire have separate governments. The county, school districts and emergency services will bear the costs, Hurd said.
Hirsch told Wisconsin Public Radio that she notified Eau Claire City Council members, and that “it was not the type of matter that required a formal process at all.”
World Relief Wisconsin did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story. But it has posted a “frequently asked questions” about the planned refugee resettlement on its website that says the 75 refugees include 15-20 family units. The FAQ says DHS thoroughly vets all refugees, and also asserts that they represent a long-term net economic benefit to communities.
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Under the question “From which countries will refugees be resettled in the Chippewa Valley?” The organization responds: “We do not know for sure which countries the refugees resettled in the Chippewa Valley will come from, but the two largest countries of origin for the refugees resettled in Wisconsin last year were Burma and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. More than 80 percent of refugees resettled In Wisconsin in fiscal year 2023 they came from one of these two countries, and we expect to receive individuals and families from those two countries next year.
This opinion was also shared by two Republican members of the Wisconsin congressional delegation, Representatives Tom Tiffany and Derek Van Orden.
In an October letter to Eau Claire City Council President Emily Berg, Tiffany complained that the community was “kept in the dark” about the issue.
Tiffany’s letter said Eau Claire and Chippewa Valley taxpayers should have the opportunity to provide public comment on “a large number of refugees — possibly from Somalia, Syria and other unstable countries.”
“What is most disappointing is that representatives of this NGO met with the City Manager well before this announcement — but the City Manager did not share this information with local officials or the public,” Tiffany wrote. He later added: “Given the dangerous conditions in these countries, and the Biden administration’s alarming record when it comes to screening new arrivals, it is inconceivable that the local community would be kept in the dark in this way. I hope you will investigate these matters.” “alarming accusations and take appropriate action.”
In response to Tiffany’s letter, Berg wrote, “Immigrants are part of the Eau Claire story,” and accused Tiffany of not understanding federal refugee law.
“World Relief has held a number of public meetings,” Berg’s letter said. “The Refugee Act requires US agencies to consult and coordinate with state and local authorities and provide financial support for resettlement. Refugee resettlement is a federal, not a local, responsibility,” Berg said.
“It is the responsibility of the United States government to locate, integrate, and support immigrants safely and soundly in communities like Eau Claire,” Berg wrote.
“As a member of Congress, Congressman Tiffany is part of the United States government. We expect and depend on him to do this work. Communicate with the public in a way that demonstrates knowledge, embraces our own responsibilities, and links those actions to our own. Shared values foster trust.” In November, Van Orden said he held talks with Berg, World Relief and the State Department about screening refugees.
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“To ensure the safety of the citizens of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and the nation, I have urged the Department of State to provide me with a detailed report on their screening procedures, including the identity of these individuals, and documentation evidencing the correct procedures.” “Investigations and investigations related to refugee resettlement were meticulously conducted, in addition to the information that was available, collected and considered regarding each individual,” Van Orden said in a statement.