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County opens doors to refugees with letter

By Heather Graves

BROWN COUNTY – Brown County has put out the welcome mat for refugees fleeing foreign countries.

“I am emotional a little bit, please just bare with me, this has been a journey for me,” said Said Hassan, refugee and director/president of COMSA, a group which provides culturally customized services to Somali refugees and other immigrant and refugee communities in Northeast Wisconsin. “When they (the United Nations) told me the United States accepted my refugee case, I had a lot of goosebumps on my body. I wanted to realize my life plan again.”

At its meeting Wednesday, Dec. 18, county supervisors voted unanimously to continue accepting refugees without limit, which is now a federal requirement.

An executive order released by the Trump administration earlier this fall requires counties to submit a letter of consent to continue accepting refugees.

“All I’m asking today is think of a man standing here, left his country when we was 10 years old and didn’t come here as a tourist or an economic migrant, but as a refugee forced off his land without any favor,” Hassan said before the vote. “And think that refugees are contributing into the economy to this country and this nation.”

Prior to the vote, a couple of changes were made to the resolution.

The first removed the original letter of intent previously approved by the county’s executive committee, which included a cap of approximately 20 refugees for resettlement.

“Including a number would be an issue because a number could be viewed as a condition, and the requirement is the letter of consent must be unambiguous and unconditional,” said Ben York, state refugee program coordinator.

District 17 Supervisor John Van Dyck said he isn’t sure where the number came from.

“Had there never been a number put in this letter, would we be having this conversation?” Van Dyck said. “I’m not sure where the number came from. I guess it’s kind of irrelevant at the moment. It’s being removed.”

The board approved the resolution with the stipulation a new letter would be drafted without a cap.
District 18 Supervisor Aaron Linsseen made an amendment to the resolution prior to the vote as well.

Linsseen’s amendment adds “and beyond” to the end of “open to resettlements in 2020.”

The amendment was passed unanimously.

Supervisors approved the resolution, following a similar letter of intent released earlier in the day by Gov. Tony Evers.

Over the last five years, Brown County has averaged approximately 14 refugees.

York said about two-thirds of the refugees who come to Wisconsin end up in Milwaukee County.

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