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The experience of Owatonna — Mavis Gasner

Washington Post October 21, 2002
Letters to the Editor

From Minnesota to Somalia

The article on Lewiston, Maine, was only half the story if it is anything like my town of Owatonna, Minn. ["In Maine Town, Sudden Diversity and Controversy," front page, Oct. 14]. We too have a large influx of Somali refugees and other foreign nationals. And here, 31 percent of our county budget goes toward social services.

For those newcomers requiring public assistance, we pay for health care, dental care, housing and food, as well as paying a monthly stipend. We also pay for the new schools, additional teachers and subsidized lunches for the extra students. And we pay for the new jail to house lawbreakers with special dietary restrictions. Our area recently had a drug bust in which authorities confiscated khat, a plant grown in East Africa and used as a drug by these immigrants. So now there has been a suggestion of a new rehabilitation center because this drug problem is so widespread.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune has reported that Somalis in Minnesota send $7 million to their homeland every month. Where does this money come from? American taxpayers. If a group from any country wishes to come to America, its members should not rely on us to fund them and their causes. Give Lewiston and the rest of America a break: Slow up the mass influx of refugees and immigrants who want to take advantage of us. Send us the hardworking, self-sufficient people who will be an asset to our society, not a burden.

Owatonna, MN

Washington Times
July 16, 2002
Letters to the Editor

Give poor, huddled masses a better life — back home

John Toivonen regards having refugees come to America as a grand and glorious thing ("Open the doors to freedom," Op-Ed, July 4). Maybe this was true 50 or more years ago, but not today.

Today's "refugees" often arrive on a plane subsidized by U.S. taxpayer dollars. Then they are told the best states in which to live, i.e., those that provide the best welfare benefits. Such a state is my own, Minnesota. Then they are told the best town in which to live, which often happens to be my town, Owatonna, where they collect welfare that is funded by local taxpayers.

Since the mass influx of refugees here, our taxes, both state and local, have gone up drastically. After all, someone has to pay for the welfare stipends, which the new arrivals may send back "home" to their relatives; build bigger schools and hire more teachers to teach the refugees' non-English-speaking children; house them; and to pay their medical expenses.

Defenders such as Mr. Toivonen say refugees help fill the cheap labor market. Yet cheap it has not been. We subsidize those low-paying jobs with taxpayer money that pays for the public services the refugees so liberally use. Lower wages force our own youths to move to places where they can make decent wages.

We are sorry that the refugees' native lands are in turmoil, but even the United Nations has said it would be best for everyone if they would stay home. The more than $600 million in grant money spent on federal refugee resettlement programs could be spent more wisely, and at a reduced cost, by helping people in their own countries. Maybe by doing that we would help ourselves and our own youths, too.

Owatonna, MN