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GOP governor candidate Johnson calls for refugee halt

The Republican-endorsed candidate for governor called Thursday for a halt to refugee resettlement in Minnesota until security and cost concerns are addressed, although he didn't say what would trigger an end to the proposed moratorium.

Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson said Minnesota has taken in more refugees from countries in strife than many other places. But he said the federal government isn’t doing enough to support them once they arrive, pushing costs on state and local taxpayers.

“There are security concerns and there are cost concerns, and they’re real concerns," Johnson said at a news conference. "And unfortunately they are concerns that are largely going unanswered and in many cases they are being ridiculed and denigrated."

It's unclear if a state could opt out of the resettlement program because those decisions are largely driven by the federal government. But Johnson said as governor he would lobby the Trump administration to take Minnesota off its list for the time being.

"States should be able to say that we are able to stop refugee resettlement for a period of time," Johnson said.

Johnson is in a primary race with former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who has also talked tough about immigration and refugees. Those topics have resonated with parts of the GOP base.

The DFL-endorsed candidate for governor Erin Murphy called Johnson's statements divisive and said they amount to "a cynical campaign tactic." She said his plan goes against Minnesota’s commitment to help people trying to escape violence or famine.

"Minnesota needs a governor that has never wavered in their commitment to opening our nation and our state to those that need our help and has never backed away from the challenge of living our values as a welcoming nation," Murphy said in a written statement.