A Ministry of the ELCA - Supported by World Hunger

Oppose SB-916 by Rev. James Holmberg

Written by LOPPW | 02/07/2024

When I first read the text of SB-916 I thought this must have come from some other time and place where basic compassion, decency, and the love of neighbor were completely unknown, and society had focused its fear on a faceless “other” who was perceived as a threat.  But no, this bill was from our time and my state.  In short, SB-916 codifies a system for alerting local officials (employee or officer of a governmental unit) whenever a refugee resettlement agency intends to place a refugee in a particular community.  After receiving notice of the intent to place an individual or family who has refugee status in a county, governing bodies must meet to review the proposed resettlement.  An avenue for public comment must be provided and notices of the intent published in newspapers having a “general circulation within the territory within a 100-mile radius of the office of the clerk for the governmental unit…” SB-916 Section 1 66.0443 (6).

This legislation adds layers of complexity and inefficiency to a process for federally approved resettlement agencies that are attempting to provide a safe place for people who have experienced years of trauma and upheaval and are eager to contribute to society and find peace.  In many cases agencies receive short notice regarding a refugee arrival and must scramble to find an apartment and prepare a welcome.  Should this legislation become effective the restrictions and various timelines for each step of the process could make finding living spaces for the refugees a nearly impossible task.  In addition to the lengthy process of going through various governmental agencies the legislation includes “A taxpayer of a local governmental unit may commence an action for injunctive relief, a writ of mandamus or prohibition, or other such legal or equitable relief as may be appropriate to compel compliance with the law if an elected official designated under this section or the governing body of the local governmental unit has failed to comply with this section” SB-916 Section 1 66.0443 (9).

While not as overtly xenophobic as the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act or efforts to restrict black immigration in 1803, SB-916 creates conditions where the placement of refugees who have been vetted and admitted to the US by the Department of Homeland Security which restrict and hamper the efforts of resettlement agencies to find appropriate housing in a timely manner.

I urge the defeat of SB-916 by our legislators and urge all Wisconsin voters to make their voices heard on this vital issue.

SB-916 can be accessed by following the link:
Wisconsin SB-916

Rev. James Holmberg

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