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Walz, Minneapolis City Council reaffirm support of refugee resettlement

Updated: December 13, 2019 10:11 PM

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and officials in the city of Minneapolis both reaffirmed their support for refugee resettlement.

On Friday, the Minneapolis City Council voted in favor of a resolution to reaffirm the city's pledge to support refugee resettlement in the city. 

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The vote comes after President Donald Trump issued an executive order instructing federal officials to receive written consent from local governments before they can accept refugees.

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"The Mayor and City Council do hereby affirm the City's status as a Welcoming City, and a city that strongly supports resettling refugees without regard to race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality, or country of origin," the resolution reads. 

In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Walz on Friday said “The inn is not full in Minnesota.”

Walz also said he rejects the intent of the executive order and reserves the state's right to challenge its requirements.

“Minnesota has a strong moral tradition of welcoming those who seek refuge,” he wrote. “Our state has always stepped forward to help those who are fleeing desperate situations and need a safe place to call home. In keeping with this proud history, I offer my consent to continue refugee resettlement in the State of Minnesota.”

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Walz said refugees strengthen and diversify communities for the better.

“Refugees are doctors and bus drivers. They are entrepreneurs and police officers. They are students and teachers,” he said. “They are our neighbors.”

Minnesota has the country's largest Somali and Karen populations and the second-largest Hmong population, made up of people who fled their war-torn homelands and their descendants.

The state is also home to one of the largest populations of Liberian immigrants in the United States, many who reside in the northwest metro.

Brooklyn Park city council member Wynfred Russell said it's comforting to have the state's top official supporting refugee resettlement.

"This is a big deal for us," he said during an interview with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. "It's a huge win when you see all the things going on around the country with respect to immigration and how immigrants have been targeted."

Many Liberians who came to the United States over the last 30 years arrived under an immigration program called Deferred Enforced Departure, or DED. In March 2018, President Trump announced he would terminate DED protections.

The issue has been battled out in the courts over the last year. The program has since been extended into March of 2020.

Russell said it's important that the country find a permanent solution for immigrants under DED.

"They are our neighbors," he said. "They are our friends. They go to our schools and churches. We had to do all we could to ensure their immigration situation was stabilized."

Russell, a Liberian immigrant himself, has been working with a coalition of leaders to lobby members of Congress over the last month.

To visit Minneapolis' Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affair's website and learn more, click here.

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