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ND Governor, workforce advocates support executive order on refugees

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Gov. Doug Burgum announced Tuesday he’s embracing an executive order from President Donald Trump that gives states and cities the authority to refuse to accept refugees.

Burgum said in a statement that North Dakota will continue to receive refugees — as long as local jurisdictions agree to it.
“The governor believes it should be a local decision,” Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki said.

Advocates for refugees said they didn’t believe any of the state’s largest cities, where refugees typically settle, would turn them away.
“I can only speculate but we’re hopeful,” said Shirley Dykshoorn, a Lutheran Social Services vice president. “We have unprecedented workforce needs. We have employers who desperately need employees and they are happy to have refugees.”

She said Fargo’s Cass County, Grand Forks’ Grand Forks County or Bismarck’s Burleigh County almost certainly won’t turn away refugees.
Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney agreed. He said his city needs refugees to grow its economy. “I have 33 businesses that say they will take as many (refugees) as they could,” Mahoney said.

Mahoney, a Democrat, said he agrees with Burgum’s endorsement of Trump’s executive order. He said there could come a time when cities could be “overwhelmed or have issues” with large numbers of resettled refugees. “It’s a good move and allows for more local control,” he said.

Trump’s executive order earlier this fall came as he had already proposed cutting the number of refugees next year to the lowest level since Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980.

Dykshoorn said her agency handled about 400 resettlement cases a year, but that number dropped to 124 in fiscal 2019, which ended in September.

Burgum has said North Dakota has about 30,000 more jobs than takers.

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