When Scott Reinhart was growing up and attending school in Redwood Falls, one of his best friends was a member of a family of refugees also living in the community. He could not imagine life without them.

Raymond Rivera said his father came to the United States as an immigrant, adding he wanted to be an American and to be part of the culture.

Yet, both Reinhart and Rivera said in 2020 the situation has changed.

People don’t necessarily come to this country for the same reasons.

“People don’t come because they love this country,” said Rivera, adding they come for the benefits.

Concerns like this are a significant part of why more than 80 people were at the Redwood Area Community Center in Redwood Falls Feb. 13.

A meeting coordinated by locals, including Reinhart, Tiffany Lesmeister-Knott and Roger Baumann, was held to provide the public with more information related to the topic of refugee resettlement.

The issue came to the forefront in January when the Redwood County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to opt in to the program. The option to opt in or out was based on an executive order made by President Trump. 

Ron Branstner, who has been speaking for a number of years about the issues of refugee resettlement as part of the larger issue of immigration, was invited to address the audience. From the start, Branstner emphasized the fact that for him this is not an issue about color.

In fact, he said it is not about the individual refugees at all.

“These are human beings,” said Branstner.

The bigger issue for Branstner is the fact that refugee resettlement is one small part of a much bigger issue related to immigration in the U.S. as a whole.

Branstner asked those attending what they were willing to sacrifice personally when it comes to people arriving in the United States. He said as that number continues to grow there is a corresponding increase in demand for infrastructure and people to pay for that.

Branstner said there are so many ways that people are coming into the United States, adding a new program has created what is known as a climate refugee. If it is too hot where you live, then you can become a refugee, he explained.

The demands on the people who live in the United States are only going to increase, Branstner added, asking once again how much people are willing to give up.

Rachele King, Minnesota Department of Human Services state refugee coordinator, offered some information related to the program in an effort to help clear up some misinformation.

One of the things King noted is that there are two ways people can come to an area as a refugee.

The first is to be placed with members of a family.

The second is to be placed within a 50-mile radius of a resettlement organization.

When it comes to Redwood County it is not within that 50-mile radius, and so the only way that a refugee would be resettled in the area would be if there is a family member already here.

She said in the past 20 years there have been four refugees resettled in Redwood County.

King also said the refugees go through a very thorough vetting process, adding last year there were 848 individuals who came to Minnesota from places like Burma and the Ukraine.