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St. Cloud affirms support for welcoming refugees

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A child holds a sign during a city council meeting on refugees.
A child holds a sign during a city council meeting on refugee resettlement moratoriums Monday, Oct. 23, 2017, at city council chambers in St. Cloud, Minn.
Dave Schwarz | St. Cloud Times via AP

In a packed City Hall Monday night, the St. Cloud City Council passed a resolution in support of being a welcoming city instead of halting refugee resettlement.

Council member Jeff Goerger proposed the resolution "in support of a just and welcoming community." It passed on a 5-1 vote.

It was a response to a draft resolution written by Council member Jeff Johnson calling for a moratorium on refugee resettlement in the city, which drew strong reaction statewide.

Goerger's resolution states that St. Cloud is welcoming to all people without regard to race, ethnicity, religion or country of origin. It also states St. Cloud has the capacity to provide city services to new residents without impacting the city or its quality of life.

St. Cloud City Council members Jeff Johnson, left, and Jeff Goerger.
St. Cloud City Council members Jeff Johnson, left, and Jeff Goerger take part in the city council meeting Monday.
Dave Schwarz | St. Cloud Times via AP

Johnson had planned to wait until Nov. 6 to bring forward his resolution. But after Goerger proposed his, Johnson read his aloud.

It calls for a temporary moratorium on refugee resettlement in the city until Lutheran Social Service can demonstrate it's complying with federal law and coordinating resettlement efforts with the city.

Johnson also wants an economic impact study of the costs to taxpayers of refugee resettlement.

Lutheran Social Service expects to resettle about 225 refugees in St. Cloud in 2018.

Several people spoke during the open forum. Christopher Lehman, an ethnic studies professor at St. Cloud State University, said St. Cloud has struggled to overcome its past racial history.

"When communities have hostile reputations toward minorities, that is a really hard reputation to overcome, and unfortunately St. Cloud has that reputation," Lehman said. "St. Cloud is only going to get more diverse, and we have to decide whether we're going to embrace that or not."