First we heard (last week) that more refugees are going to South Dakota, and now this week it’s North Dakota thanks to the Lutheran Immigrant and Refugee Services (LIRS)* headquartered in a very nice building in Maryland (It might even be fancier than the Catholic Charities building in Fort Worth I told you about yesterday, here. BTW, did anyone get over to Billy Bob’s for some fun at the Poverty Summit?) I guess LIRS figures the pickens are better in the Dakotas because Maryland is in immigrant overload right now with El Salvadoran Sandinistas and they can be pretty rough when it comes to their territory.
Here is the latest from Grand Forks where a community-wide meeting was held to help calm down the local folks who want to know how their kids are going to be educated in over-crowded schools. LIRS has likely worn out its welcome in the two larger cities in the state—Fargo and Bismark—so now they have moved into fresher territory.
About 100 people attended a two-hour panel discussion in the Empire Arts Centre this evening with 13 people involved in refugee and immigration issues in the community.
It’s the second event aimed at addressing concerns about and the needs of the growing numbers of immigrants in Grand Forks, said Hal Gershman, president of the city council.
“We have to show tolerance for each other, no matter what our views are,” Gershman said.
Most of the questions from the audience were from mothers concerned about what they said are crowded conditions in Century Elementary School, on the city’s southwest sector. That’s the designated “magnet” elementary school for English Language Learner (ELL) students, most of whom are immigrants.
Assistant Superintendent Jody Powell said the district is confident that staffing levels are adequate but that a demographic study of the district is being done that could re-draw school lines.
Without a doubt, here is one of the best questions I’ve ever heard some cheeky citizen ask!
A man asked the panel pointedly “what is the ideal level of ethnic diversity,” and whether the refugee resettlement program was aimed at any certain number of immigrants in Grand Forks.
Sinisa Milovanovic, state refugee coordinator for Lutheran Social Services which is the only official refugee resettlement agency in North Dakota, said it was the needs in other countries that drove refugees here.
“Our agency is not in the business of increasing diversity.”
He! He! He! Of course he wouldn’t dare tell them they will keep bringing refugees until the citizens of Grand Forks are ready to blow up and tell them ENOUGH!
* I forget that some readers may be new and don’t know that there are ten or so major federal refugee contractors (called volags) and LIRS is one of those. Your money goes to LIRS who then subcontracts these Lutheran agencies in the Dakotas. The whole tangled business of hundreds of subcontractors to the big contractors makes it hard to track taxpayer money or to guarantee accountability. And, since refugee agencies are paid by the head there is quite a bit of competition between contractors for refugee heads. However, as far as the Dakotas are concerned, it looks like LIRS has a monopoly.
Addendum: Ahhhhhh! It is worse than I thought! After I posted this I thought I should check LIRS most recent available Form 990, here. LIRS gross receipts for that year were $31,017,941 and $29,907,281 came from YOU! That is 96% of their funds came from the taxpayers! Their past president received over $200,000, for what? And, adding insult to injury, you likely paid for that fancy building in an “eclectic” Inner Harbor neighborhood.