Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Appleton alderman opposing refugee resettlement meets backlash from Mayor & fellow aldermen

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 24, 2014


An alderman in Appleton, Wisconsin has authored a resolution questioning the community’s ability to absorb the refugees who are due to arrive in Appleton in 2014 through October via World Relief (the group started resettling refugees in Oshkosh and then Fond du Lac before adding Appleton as a resettlement site). He seems to stand alone among his fellow aldermen and the mayor who have come out to vehemently oppose his stance. Jeff Jirschele, who represents part of the city’s south side, claims that planning has been lax, but the Mayor, other aldermen and a variety of nonprofit organizations involved in the resettlement have pointed to an extensive plan in place to help the refugees. An article in Post Cresent Media explains the situation, while unfortunately not linking to the resolution so that we can inspect exactly what it opposes and proposes:

APPLETON — An Appleton alderman says he has serious concerns about 75 refugees relocating in Appleton this year, setting off a furious response from City Hall.

Jeff Jirschele, who represents a portion of the city’s south side, said this week that planning has been lax and the region needs to be sure it’s prepared for the challenges with the resettlement…

I’m worried about these people and our social safety net when they arrive,” Jirschele said. “… we have no room to flounder on housing or medical care despite the best intentions of the groups involved.”

Jirschele authored a resolution with some tough language aimed at World Relief Fox Valley, the Oshkosh-based group shepherding the resettlement, and its selection of Appleton for a resettlement city.

He said the group had “not been vetted” and called for an immediate suspension of all city efforts in the relocation until a group could identify the impact of absorbing the refugees into the community…

Jirschele’s sentiment hit a nerve on Thursday among fellow aldermen and Mayor Tim Hanna.

Hanna said he spoke for all City Hall departments in criticizing both the tone and content of Jirschele’s resolution.

… there’s more happening to get ready than people understand,” Hanna said…

Hanna rattled off a list of community partners — including Goodwill, the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley, school districts, churches, health care providers and county agencies — who are preparing for the resettlement.

More concerning than the physical preparation, Hanna said, was the tinge of judgment in the resolution.

This is not the message we want to send as a welcoming, inclusive community,” Hanna said. “There are some undertones that make assumptions about these people as being poor or a drain on us, but quite the opposite…

This is the third year for resettlement operations for World Relief, which has already moved 174 individuals to the Fox Valley, largely from Burma… Read more here

An article in the newspaper from January 22 explains the organizations and programs in place to help the refugees become employed. No where though are there any figures mentioned that help us to understand how many refugees up to now have become successfully employed through the programs.

APPLETON —Refugee assistance groups say preparations are on track to accommodate the 75 refugees relocating to Appleton this year, despite concern from an Appleton alderman to the contrary…

Key parts of the resettlement effort are job training and placement, and those are handled in part through the state’s Wisconsin Works or W-2 program, said Jim Nitz, an internal program consultant with Forward Service Corp., a nonprofit employment agency.

Forward Services has the state contract for W-2 and we’ve worked with other refugees that meet the requirements,” Nitz said Tuesday. “If they’re ready for employment we’ll help them with employment. If it’s other family stabilization, we’ll focus on that.” …

Nitz said Service Corp. has collaborated with World Relief and smoothly brought refugees to Oshkosh…

My experience with World Relief has been very professional. They focus on workforce programs and know what they’re doing,” Nitz said. “I’ve been involved in a number of community resettlements and Appleton is taking a proactive approach to be prepared.”…

Another player in the upcoming resettlement is the Appleton-based Hmong-American Partnership.

Lo Lee, the group’s executive director, said the group is uniquely suited to “creating a road map” for the refugees, since thousands of Hmong refugees arrived in the Fox Valley from the 1980s through the early 2000s.

We have two grants for the new arrivals from the federal government and state refugee office,” Lee said. “One is to design the transportation assistance program and the other is to provide case management and job placement for them.”Lee said understanding the unique culture and home circumstances the refugees are facing is key to lending a hand… Read more here

One Response to “Appleton alderman opposing refugee resettlement meets backlash from Mayor & fellow aldermen”

  1. cory82 said

    The City talks about plans but I notice that the only part it claims in resettlement is public health screening for the refugees. Seems like the mayor should have discussed plans for the schools taking in many new students who will need English as a second language.

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