Damon Ouradnik knows his opinion is a controversial one – the arena of social media comment boards can attest to that – but he also knows he can’t be the only person opposed to refugee resettlement in his state of North Dakota. By the looks of it, he has at least 3,287 people backing him.
In August 2015, Ouradnik started a Change.org petition titled: “Stop Refugee Resettlement and Lutheran Social Services in North Dakota!,” which invited the public to sign a petition contesting the state’s current refugee and immigration policy. Follow the petition and subsequent posts at https://www.change.org/p/cass-county-legislature-stop-lutheran-social-services-in-fargo.
The petition successfully sent Ouradnik’s letter and attached signatures to U.S. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and John Hoeven, U.S. House Rep. Kevin Cramer, State Sen. Gary Lee and State Reps. Wesley Belter and Peter Silbernagel.
But several months later, Ouradnik could be anything but satisfied with the results of his petition.
“Legislature doesn’t seem to want to touch it,” Ouradnik said, mentioning his discussions with both Cramer and a staffer for Heitkamp.
The petition page shares Valley News Live coverage of Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s official call for further security regarding Syrian refugees. The attached article also claims that LSS said the area was “at capacity for refugees.” But less than a month later, LSS announced plans to accept over 500 refugees in the 2016 year. Consequently, Ouradnik updated his petition feed with at post titled “Lies from LSS and our Governor!,” attaching a CBS report on Minneapolis as a hotbed for Islamist extremist recruitment.
Before posting the petition, Ouradnik said he looked into North Dakota policy on immigration and refugee resettlement.
“I started doing some digging,” Ouradnik said. “A ridiculous amount of digging.”
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Resources, North Dakota marks one of eleven “Wilson/Fish” states that follow an amendment made to the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1984. In essence, the federal government contracts North Dakota to appoint a private third party, nonprofit organization to direct resettlement. But Ouradnik says this policy acts independently from legislation, and, consequently, the voice of North Dakotans.
“Nobody in Fargo has any say,” Ouradnik said. “[Refugees] are brought here and we have to pay for all of that. The Wilson/Fish amendment is un-American. I don’t mind being taxed, but that’s taxation without representation.”
Ouradnik said this lack of voice drove him to start the change.org petition. And despite his admitted disagreement with the core principles of Islam, he said the petition wasn’t meant to brandish opposition to LSS or the Muslim community, but instead allow North Dakotan citizens to have some say on refugee resettlement in their community.
“Doesn’t matter your alignment, you should want a vote,” Ouradnik said. “If the majority votes for [allowing resettlement], then it’s my problem and I have to deal with that on my own.”
Ouradnik, a program installer in Williston, said Fargo should fear becoming a target recruitment area for Islamist extremists. Moreover, the US shouldn’t use Europe as a role model for refugee policy.
“We just can’t allow what’s happening in Europe to happening here,” Ouradnik said. “Just until this world calms down a little bit. I’m not a racist person, but a logical person.”
This piece was completed for the Investigating and Narrating the News course where all students reported on refugee issues and stories in Fargo-Moorhead.