WASHINGTON — The Chippewa Valley in western Wisconsin is preparing to receive up to 75 refugees this year, and not everyone is happy about it. World Relief Wisconsin, a federally funded Christian humanitarian organization, said it spoke with local officials, the Eau Claire Police Department and other community leaders before moving ahead with the resettlement plan.

What You Need To Know

  • Two Wisconsin congressmen are co-sponsoring legislation to ban the settlement of refugees in states and communities that do not want them

  • It’s a response to opposition in western Wisconsin to the planned resettlement of 75 refugees there

  • 21 of the 75 refugees already moved to the Eau Claire area

  • The federal government only allows the settlement of refugees who have been vetted and granted work permits

“Every indication that we have, from all of those consultations that we did, indicated that Eau Claire would in fact be a good community for that,” said Gail Cornelius, the regional director for World Relief Wisconsin.

But after some residents raised objections, two Wisconsin Republicans, Reps. Tom Tiffany and Derrick Van Orden, have introduced legislation that would allow local and state governments to refuse such resettlements. It mirrors similar state legislation passed by Wisconsin’s Republican-led legislature. 

“I believe in local control, and I believe local municipalities should have a say if refugees are going to be brought from a foreign country to America,” Tiffany said. 

“They’re running willy-nilly and putting people around the country in places that can’t support them economically,” Van Orden said. 

Twenty-one of the 75 refugees already have been moved to the Eau Claire area. The federal government only allows the settlement of refugees who have been vetted and granted work permits. Groups like World Relief Wisconsin help them find housing and jobs.

Cornelius said refugees are not a drain on the communities they live in.

“They’re paying their taxes from day one,” she said. 

Refugees have been settling in Wisconsin for decades. State records showed more than 16,700 refugees have been placed in the state since 2001. Cornelius said legislation like this may send a message to refugees that they’re not welcome.

“When in fact, what we have seen with our refugees arriving is that they have been received very warmly in the communities where we work as well as throughout the state of Wisconsin,” Cornelius said. 

Illegal border crossings by migrants have emerged as a major issue in this year’s elections. Cornelius said the refugees may be wrongly viewed as part of that problem, when in reality, the government has allowed them into the U.S. and given them the right to work under longstanding U.S. law.

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