Anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is attempting to stir up anti-refugee sentiment in St. Cloud, Minnesota. On Monday, the city council decisively rejected the group’s bigotry.
St. Cloud, population 67,641, is no stranger to anti-refugee sentiment. Four years ago, residents stopped the local Muslim community from building a mosque. The city has also become one of several north and central Minnesota stops on a circuit attracting speakers espousing anti-Muslim and anti-refugee views including John Guandolo, Shahram Hadian, Usama Dakdok, and Ron Branstner.
On September 28, FAIR National Field Director Susan Tully also spoke in St. Cloud. According to WJON, Tully used her remarks to cast suspicion on legal protections offered to Somali refugees and immigrants residing in Minnesota as well as the costs refugee resettlement poses to localities. To determine those costs, Tully proposed “a moratorium on refugee resettlement until those numbers” were public knowledge. The effort mirrors one which FAIR and other nativist groups have pursued at the federal level–most notably via legislation sponsored by Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX).
This very same anti-refugee strategy backfired in Tennessee in 2013. A piece of state legislation intended to halt refugee resettlement in the state prompted a study of the resettlement program’s costs. The bill’s anti-refugee backers intended for the study to pit communities against one another by framing refugee communities as a drain on public resources. To their dismay, the study found that refugees contributed $1.4 billion to state revenue from 1990 to 2012, while the state invested just $753 million over the same period.
In St. Cloud, Tully has an ally in City Councilor Jeff Johnson. During St. Cloud’s October 23 city council meeting, Johnson read a resolution echoing Tully’s earlier call for a resettlement moratorium. KARE reports that many locals expressed opposition to Johnson’s proposal, which was never voted on. A counter measure intending to affirm St. Cloud’s status as an inclusive, welcoming city passed on a 5-1 vote.
It is hardly a surprise that Johnson proposed the anti-refugee measure less than a month after Tully’s presentation. Johnson described Tully as “a pretty smart gal” and promoted her appearance during St. Cloud’s September 25 city council meeting. He also attended Tully’s presentation, later telling Alpha News MN the event “was absolutely outstanding.”
FAIR is a national organization primarily focused on making federal immigration laws and policies more draconian. Some of the group’s recent publications include a bigoted policy paper on immigration’s supposed public health threats and a grossly overstated cost estimate of unauthorized immigration nationally. However, FAIR is not averse to advocating policies to demonize immigrants and refugees at the local level.
FAIR has supported local efforts to implement anti-immigrant housing ordinances and has fostered relationships with local law enforcement. According to a July 2016 Breitbart News column authored by anti-Muslim demagogue Pamela Geller, Tully also coordinated with local activists fueling a misinformation-ridden effort to vilify immigrants and refugees in Twin Falls, Idaho last year.