Stearns County Refugee Resettlement

 

Refugee resettlement in Stearns County has been a hot-button issue for years now. However, there are many details about resettlement that get muddied in the court of public opinion. This blog will lay out facts and resources for you to be able to “do your own work” in understanding how and why the demographics of Stearns County (mostly the St. Cloud area) have changed over the last couple of decades.

1. New Refugees Per Capita, Stearns County

Stearns County is the Minnesota county with the second highest number of new refugees resettled per capita, at 90 per 10,000 residents during the last decade (2009-2018). Ramsey County is the highest with double that amount. Keep in mind: this is only where new refugees were originally settled, and refugees, just like all of us, have freedom of movement in this country, so they may have chosen to move elsewhere.

Top 10 counties for new refugees in Minnesota, 2009-2018

2. Top Origin Country in Stearns Refugee Resettlement =  Somalia

3. What is the procedure for refugees to be resettled in the United States?

Refugees fleeing war or persecution go through an extensive vetting process that can take years before they can come to the United States.

After the United Nations grants them refugee status, their backgrounds are examined by U.S. Department of Homeland Security and FBI personnel. Refugees from some countries undergo additional scrutiny.

Refugees also receive extensive health screenings and cultural orientations before they’re matched with a resettlement group that helps find a place for them to safely settle.

4. What has refugee resettlement traditionally looked like in Minnesota?

Minnesota has a long tradition of welcoming refugees, including those of Somali or Hmong descent in recent decades.

In 2019, there were about 900 refugees settled in Minnesota, many from countries riled by civil strife like Myanmar or Congo. That number is down about two-thirds from 2006.

The number of refugees settled in the United States has declined under Trump’s administration, which has lowered the maximum number of refugees that can be accepted into the country. In the early ‘90s, more than 100,000 refugees were admitted to the United States each year. In fiscal year 2019, the U.S. admitted 30,000 refugees.

5. Data and research specific to Stearns County

Many times, discussions about refugee resettlement are focused on cost. Refugee resettlement is a federal program, so the direct costs are not reflected in county budgets. In regards to indirect costs, Stearns County has put out specific information many times:

6. What is the average monetary amount each Refugee has access to when they arrive in Stearns County?

  • Receive federal loan for travel expenses to US to be paid back in three years
  • Refugees receive a one-time federal grant of $1,175 to cover housing and initial expenses
  • Resettlement agencies receive $1,000 per individual to do their resettlement work
  • None of these benefits are derived from county tax levy dollars
  • Refugees can apply for public benefits if they are eligible just like other residents

7. Does Stearns County have special benefits for refugees?

  • The only benefit specifically targeted to refugees is the Refugee Cash Assistance program
  • This is a Federal government benefit
  • Refugees are eligible to apply for any other financial assistance available to the general public
  • Stearns County does not track refugee status for any other financial assistance program

8. Can refugees and immigrants apply for public assistance?

Yes, just like any other US resident, refugees and immigrants can apply for public assistance benefits at their local county agency. The following programs are administered by county governments. Other programs are administered by other government agencies.

  • MFIP—Minnesota Family investment Program to help families find and keep work
  • Food Support—( SNAP ) working, low income persons get help with buying food
  • Child Care –some families can receive childcare based on their income and may have a co-pay as well
  • Healthcare—medical assistance for families, children, adults
  • RCA – Refugee Cash Assistance for eight months when refugees first arrive in the US

9. What is it like to be Somali in St. Cloud?

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Resources used in this blog:
As Minnesota Counties vote on accepting refugees, here are the counties where refugees have actually moved in the last decade by: Greta Kuhl, MinnPost

Amid the chaos, Minnesota Counties say “yea” or “nay” to refugeesby: Jon Collins, MPR News

Adults and Families: Public Assistance Report, Stearns County website

 

About the Author

Natalie Ringsmuth

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Natalie grew up in Central Minnesota and received her Music Education degree from Concordia College in Moorhead. She taught middle school choir in Georgia and worked in the church sector for over a decade. She now works as Executive Director of #unitecloud, a non-profit working to reduce racial, religious, and cultural tensions in Central MN and is a trainer with the CARE (Community Anti-Racism Education) Team at SCSU (St Cloud State University). She is a member of multiple boards, including the St Cloud School District 742 board, the United Way Community Impact Team, and the United Way's education initiative, Partner for Student Success. In her spare time (haha) she loves to spend time with her husband and 3 children, making music and playing games.