Dover, NH update: No refugees coming (yet!), but mayor wants a plan and federal legislation…

…..that would give local communities more say in the matter, assure financial help!

This is an update of the hot story we reported last summer about the possibility of the US State Department granting authority to a wannabe refugee resettlement agency to begin resettling refugees into the Tri-cities area of New Hampshire.  The nascent plan was killed when it appeared that a planned public meeting would be explosive.

Sensible Dover Mayor Karen Weston wants a plan! Bio here: http://www.dover.nh.gov/government/boards-and-commissions/city-council/index.html

Backpedaling now, the resettlement agencies in the state say there are no plans in the immediate future for Dover and surrounding towns.  However that isn’t the most important thing about this article!  First we learned some new bits of information and secondly, and most astoundingly, the Mayor of Dover wants to seek federal legislation to give communities a greater say in resettlement plans for American cities.  Wow!

She needs to call for a meeting of  bipartisan(!) mayors from “pockets of resistance” including mayors of Athens, GA, Amarillo, TX, Springfield, MA, Lynn, MA, Manchester, NH and Lewiston, ME for a start!

From Foster’s Daily Democrat:

DOVER — There are no plans to resettle African immigrants in the Tri-Cities, according to state officials and two refugee relocation groups.

The refugee issue emerged last summer when representatives from the Manchester-based Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success, or ORIS, approached Dover officials about becoming a resettlement community. The group appeared to back away from the plan amid concern from residents and local officials.

Barbara Seebart, the state refugee coordinator for the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services, said she’s not aware of any plans for refugee resettlement in the Tri-Cities.

This is the first we have heard that there is a certain time period for wannabe refugee contractors to get approval:

ORIS is a social service agency not authorized by the federal government to resettle refugees and therefore it cannot place people in Dover, according to Seebart. That federal authorization process could take 18 to 24 months.

Dover mayor wants a plan in advance!  (Just like the mayor of Athens, GA)  And, she wants federal legislation!   Me too! And, I have ideas on how it should be crafted.

Mayor Karen Weston doesn’t oppose refugee resettlement but believes host communities should have more control in determining how many can arrive each year. She also believes the federal government should offer funding to offset the effects on city and school budgets.

“There are no plans today, but it can happen any day,” Weston said. “That is why we want to be proactive and (pursue) possible legislation with the federal government.”

[….]

She hopes to arrange a conference call with Rochester Mayor T.J. Jean, Somersworth Mayor Dana Hilliard and members of the state’s congressional issue to address those immigration law changes. Weston expects that call won’t happen until next year.

The U.S. has been accepting refugees since the early 1980s. New Hampshire currently receives between 250 and 550 of these legal immigrants each year, Seebart said. Most live along the Interstate 93 corridor from Nashua to Concord, although some have been placed in Laconia.  [Note to the mayor, be sure to arrange for at least those New England mayors asking for a moratorium to join your call!–ed]

This next line may be factually correct, but certainly local elected officials should be part of any plan coming down from the feds especially as it will involve high costs for local taxpayers for everything from health care, to subsidized housing (see Seattle!), to education for the kids and, not to be forgotten,the criminal justice system!

Cities and towns cannot block refugee resettlement, the same way they cannot restrict people of any race or ethnic group from moving in.

Then get this!  Seebart says there is “extensive collaboration” before refugees are resettled.

“Extensive collaboration” my foot!  They may have a meeting with “stakeholders,” but the general public is not invited!  Heck, they have already demonstrated reluctance to hold a public meeting (where contractors and the State Dept would stand before the public and answer questions) as everyone who followed the controversy this summer noticed. 

Regardless, refugees don’t just show up in host cities overnight. There is a well-established federal system for refugee resettlement that includes extensive collaboration with local communities, Seebart said.

[….]

“If a new resettlement site is being nurtured,” she [Amy Marchildon a resettlement contractor in NH] said, “there would be a long process of engaging city government and community social support services and the community.”

I’ll bet we have 50 posts on New Hampshire over the years due to the many refugee controversies happening there.  Click here to learn more.

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