Tracker Pixel for Entry

​FMRAC Steps Up, Defines Its Stance

by C.S. Hagen | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | News | May 2nd, 2017

FARGO - The Fargo/Moorhead Refugee Advisory Council clarified recent actions Tuesday by doubling down on its stance against the recall effort of a Fargo city commissioner primarily due to threats, but not without admonishment.

“We have a simple message,” the Fargo/Moorhead Refugee Advisory Council, or FMRAC, said in a response to an email and directed to City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn. “Please do not spread false rumors. Refugees have already suffered enough, and they don’t deserve to be targeted the way they are right now.”

On Sunday, FMRAC directors invited Piepkorn to an honorary membership on the council. So far, Piepkorn has not accepted. Fauzia Haider, a former FMRAC member, resigned from FMRAC last week stating decisions were being made “behind the scenes.”

While rumors swirled and fingers pointed in directions few knew how to follow after FMRAC advocated an immediate end to Piepkorn’s recall efforts, FMRAC did admit the controversy created a division within the council.

The recall committee remains committed to its efforts to recall Piepkorn, organizer Erin Buzick said.

“One of our former officers was conflicted, and decided to support the recall effort publicly, while many others expressed the support only in an individual capacity,” FMRAC said. Currently, FMRAC has no official council spokesperson, but plans electing one on Sunday, Hukun Abdullahi, a member, said.

“The council understood the need for people who wanted to do this, but at the same time understood the repercussions this could have in the future. This is our city after all. The council did not want to escalate the cost-issues, which is enabling the commissioner to go after the refugees in the first place.”

Piepkorn took aim last year at Lutheran Social Services during City Commissioner meetings, saying he wanted an investigation into how much money LSS was spending on resettlement programs, how much immigrants are costing the city, and if New Americans are related to increased crime rates. Last October, reporters from Breitbart News, the “alt-right” online news forum formerly led by Steve Bannon, showed up at the meeting, a coincidence Piepkorn denied he had anything to do with.

Lutheran Social Services is the organization contracted by the state to manage the arrival of refugees and immigrants to North Dakota.

After a six-month study, the Fargo Human Relations Commission released a report declaring that although financial statistics focused on a particular class or race of people were at best difficult to obtain, refugees and immigrants were good for Fargo.

FMRAC further stressed that recall volunteer safety issues are the council’s most pressing concern.

“As mentioned in the press release, the safety of the community and community members outweighs any issues that are on the table,” FMRAC said. “We were informed about the incidents that were happening during the signature collection process, and in order to prevent any kind of escalation of violence, we decided to take this decision collectively as the council.

“Fight pushes people away, and puts people in precarious situations to defend rather than negotiate. Ironically, many refugees who are here do understand the consequences of picking up fight especially with their own government. The current political climate and other barriers do not give our refugees a whole lot of wiggle-room to speak up.”

FMRAC was not aware of any incidents that were reported to police.

Recall committee volunteer Zach Echola said volunteers go out in pairs, and he knows of no instances where they have been threatened. Buzick reported that recall volunteers and organizers have experienced threats by those that should be allies, and discussed one case where a volunteer was met by someone who said they didn’t like foreigners.

On Monday, April 24, the 27th day of Nisan of the Hebrew calendar, the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, racist, Trump-supporting posters were pinned to telephone poles in downtown Fargo. The posters went up shortly after the Fargo Human Relations Commission announced findings of a six-month study that showed refugees and immigrants in Fargo are good for the city. Fargo Police do not have any suspects in custody at this time.

FMRAC’s initial announcement to end the recall efforts came days after the posters were discovered.

“We were late in the game to know about the incidents, to be honest,” FMRAC said. “Had we known about this earlier, we would have taken this step calling to end the petition much sooner. It’s our understanding that volunteers were made aware of the resistance they would face, but the remarks from some specific households were truly discriminatory and threatening.

“Even a simple message such as ‘Go back to your own country,’ can be very hurtful and the council understands that.”

FMRAC further reported it is “disheartened that it has lost some of its dedicated allies,” but plans to reunify ethnic communities and the upcoming elections may bring also about some change.

“Even the commissioner’s great-grandfather left Poland to seek better futures for his children,” FMRAC said. “If you are concerned about the costs, please understand that the initial cost to help us find a job or to learn English is nowhere comparable to the cost of engaging in a warfare with another country, which ends up creating more refugees.

“Please advocate against wars instead of refugees. The council believes the taxes generated from refugees via employment, property ownership, and entrepreneurship not only replenishes those initial costs, but helps achieve economic stability for years to come.”

Former City Commissioner Mike Williams said Piepkorn has no credible basis for his statements, which included CEO of Lutheran Social Services Jessica Thompson’s inflated salary, tripling the amount of funds spent on a new “Taj Mahal” building, and blaming LSS for being behind the recall effort. In the past, Williams said he has buried Piepkorn with facts, to prove points.

“I’ve been involved with New Americans for quite a few years now,” Williams said. “I understand we are better together, a stronger community with diversity.”

He disagrees with the recall effort and told the recall committee as much over the weekend when he said they challenged him.

“I was just stunned,” Williams said. “It’s well documented that I’ve been an ally of New Americans. I went on to say that our goal here is to get the facts out, and I don’t see how the recall will help with that.”

Buzick said she challenged Williams on issues. “He pushed very, very hard for us to drop the effort,” Buzick said. “I was not able to get to the end of my inquiry before he cut me off and started screaming. His tirade was so intense, that one member left the room to compose themselves. He then basically wrapped it up telling us we were naive idiots.”

Williams, who said he is an activist who happened to get elected, said the recall committee is filled with good people with good intentions, but the dissension is hurting their cause.

“It’s their prerogative, and if they want to do that that’s fine. I didn’t threaten them and I didn’t call them naive. It’s important we keep it together, they’re laughing at us when they see dissent.” 

The study released in March entitled Refugee Resettlement in Fargo report, agreed that refugees and immigrants are good for Fargo.

A first generation immigrant is cost positive in North Dakota by approximately $3,250, and long term benefits are incalculable, according to the report.

Additionally, New Americans, or refugees and immigrants, make up approximately three percent of North Dakota’s population, according to the American Immigration Council. They are employers, taxpayers, and workers in fields few local citizens are willing to go, according to the Refugee Resettlement in Fargo report. Foreign-born residents contributed $542.8 million to Fargo’s GDP in 2014, and have a spending power of $149.4 million, the report states. 

Recently in:

BISMARCK – When Kyle Thompson decided to speak out against tactics used along the Dakota Access Pipeline, it wasn’t because of a change of heart.“I’ve always tried to look out for the best interests of everyone,” said…

Photos by Raul GomezLast Sunday we had our annual Best of the Best awards ceremony at The Plains Art Museum. we don’t mean to brag but we’re the area’s longest­-running media poll, meaning we’ve been relying on you -- our…

July 24-27, 1pmMake Room, 806½ Main Ave, Fargo4-day arts-intensive camp! Water has qualities of impermanence, imperfection, and fluidity, all fantastic areas of practice for growing artists. Art Camp will include a wide variety of…

"No, not rich. I am a poor man with money, which is not the same thing."-Gabriel Garcia MarquezThis idea is something that has been gnawing at me for awhile, but I don't know where to express these thoughts or how to communicate…

Three “great leaders” who might really screw up the worldIf you have had a chance to watch documentaries based on North Korean culture you had to notice that all citizens referred to 33-year-old Kim Jong Un as their “Great…

The moment of truth has arrived. After seven weeks of sampling and judging some of the finest libations in the area the results for this year’s Cocktail Showdown have arrived. Christopher Larson, Raul Gomez and Sabrina Hornung…

On a sultry Thursday night, I sauntered into Luna. Situated on South University next to Bernie’s Beer and Wine, it isn’t exactly a hole in the wall, but it is certainly off the beaten path, and as described by their motto it is…

The High Plains Reader had the opportunity to chat with Goo Goo Dolls Bassist Robby Takac about their origins, their ever evolving sound, and the impact of “Iris.”High Plains Reader: You grew up in Buffalo New York. What was…

Fourteen years ago this month, entertainment icon Bob Hope died at age 100. Born in 1903, Hope performed in vaudeville and theatre in the 1920s and 30s, moved into radio and films in the 1930s, and by the 1940s was a major movie…

Shane Balkowitsch was nervous. He squatted under an inky shroud, gazing ahead above the rim of his eyeglasses. In front of him, hoisted on a modern tripod, was his accordion camera with its intense red bellows. Only steps away…

Summer Arts Intensive performs main stage musicalUnder the summer sun, something’s begun, taking over those summer nights. The 1978 movie and musical hit Grease is taking stage as part of the Summer Arts Intensive in West Fargo.…

Humor

​Talking to strangers

by Sabrina Hornung

“I don’t have a tour, like, on the back of a sweatshirt,” comedian Paula Poundstone says. “I go out every weekend. This weekend I went out Friday, Saturday and Monday. Mostly it’s Friday/Saturday or Thursday through…

The Red River Zoo is inviting adults to gather their friends and tap into your wild side for one special night of fundraising. Zoo Brew is back again at 7pm on Thursday evening, July 27th, and with even more beer to sample than…

Wellness

​Natural sleep aids

by Erin Oberlander

As I interact with clients and friends and family alike, one of the issues that comes up commonly is that of sleep. It seems that in our modern world, getting deep, nourishing sleep has become a challenge for some and a complete…

Live and Learn

​The other shoe

by HPR Contributor

By Elizabeth Nawrotnawrot@mnstate.eduI look up from my hotel lobby breakfast astonished to see a framed print of Wassily Kandinsky's "Mit und Gegen,” a masterpiece of color and composition that just happens to be my favorite…

“…the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.” – Milan Kundera“It may seem kind of bleak to say that the future of our planet rests in large part on the consciences of Republican…