ST. CLOUD, Minn. (WCCO) – A city in central Minnesota is discussing the possibility of banning more refugees from moving into the area.

St. Cloud City Councilman Jeff Johnson introduced his resolution at the City Council meeting Monday night.

More than 250 crowded the room, including advocacy groups who do not agree with the proposal.

(credit: CBS)

Before the City Council meeting even started, people on both sides of the issue were trying to make a point.

“Schools are declining. We had to build a new school because of the population increase because of the Somalian population,” Mary Labernik said.

“It is sad to see some people trying to divide us when we should be coming together,” Geny Villoa said.

Only five people got a chance to speak during the open forum and all of them spoke out against Johnson’s recommendation that a moratorium be placed on refugee resettlement in St. Cloud.

“St. Cloud is a diverse, growing city, so that history still continues,” one man said.

There were tense moments throughout the evening and Councilmember Jeff Goerger’s counter-resolution – what he calls a resolution in support of a just and welcoming community – received applause from supporters.

“We renew our commitment to foster a community in which all people have the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness,” Goerger said.

“We are in violation of federal law right here in St. Cloud. I’m sorry,” Johnson said.

Jeff Johnson (credit: CBS)

Johnson told the crowd that his resolution isn’t a ban on refugees, but a moratorium until the city gets more information on the number of refugees moving to the city and the cost to taxpayers.

“If we’re going to have a refugee program, fine, but let’s make it a darn good program, not one where I can say I have no idea how it works, how many is coming to town,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he wants success for refugees, but feels like they are doing them a disservice if they don’t know how many are coming. He’s hoping Monday night’s meeting creates more open discussions throughout the city.

Goerger’s counter-resolution in support of a “welcoming community” passed Monday night.

The only councilmember against it was Johnson.

John Lauritsen

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