Aberdeen Mayor Mike Levsen takes an enlightened and pragmatic view of immigration in a nation built by immigrants. At an April 4 community meeting on outreach to immigrants, Mayor Levsen made clear his support for making Aberdeen a model community for refugees and other newcomers:
“Let’s not spend an awful lot of time listening to national TV on people to be afraid of; what to be critical of,” Mayor Mike Levsen offered. “This is an opportunity, not a problem. So much of this isn’t what we do, but our attitude of how we do it.”
[Pastor Marcia] Sylvester agreed.
“We have the opportunity to be a model community — how to be welcoming and help those new Americans with honor, respect and dignity,” Sylvester said. “As much as we have to teach, we have so much more to learn as world citizens” [Kelda J.L. Pharris, “Aberdeen Meeting Addresses Outreach to Immigrants, Refugees,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.04.05].
Aberdeen Mayor Mike Levsen said the town needs to be supportive of other cultures, not base beliefs on fears perpetuated by the media.
Levsen supports bringing more refugees to help Aberdeen’s workforce and said he will pay no mind to those with racist or ignorant attitudes.
During Monday’s City Council meeting, Levsen was asked by Councilman David Bunsness why he called some concerned residents’ comments “whiny” during a task force meeting.
“The comment I made was at a public meeting where people were raising complaints that seemed whiny,” Levsen replied. “And the public meeting was conducted by Lutheran Social Services to provide information. I wouldn’t make any more of it than that. It was a informational event, and there was some misinformation that came from people that LSS was able to correct. … I think we should take a positive approach. It’s in our own best interest. If that term bothers you, change it to something that fits” [Shannon Marvel, “Aberdeen Could Become Refugee Resettlement Site,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.04.19].
Alas, Mayor Levsen’s uninformed whiners come out in force on AAN’s Facebook page to challenge Mayor Levsen’s enlightened pragmatism. Here’s the public response as of this morning at 08:30 CDT:
Nothing too volatile there, just resistance to refugees… but the comments get worse:
Living up to America’s history and commitment to liberty and justice for all is “bull.” Refugees are “rubbish” who will use more “Meth and drugs.”
Not enough jobs? The state Department of Labor has 55 new job listings in the Aberdeen area this morning, plus 704 job listings in Aberdeen and 1,019 in the Aberdeen service area. DOL counted 585 unemployed workers in Brown County in February 2016.
The above comment thinly masks anti-immigrant sentiment as political observation. The observation seems invalid: Mayor Levsen resisted anti-immigrant sentiment to support Northern Beef Packers nine years ago, and he won reëlection in 2009 and ran unopposed in 2014.
One resident reminds his neighbors that refugees haven’t carried out a single terrorist act on American soil since September 11, 2001. He also reminds his Christian neighbors that not only their country but their religion got its start with refugees:
The United States already has one of the strictest, slowest refugee screening protocols in the world.
Another neighbor reminds commenters that we’re discussing people who haven’t even come to our fair city yet on a program that doesn’t yet exist.
Correction! Michael Swango was born in Tacoma, Washington.
Some commenters fly the veteran flag to cloak their xenophobia. However, the suggestion that America is so weak a country that it can’t take care of veterans and refugees simultaneously is distinctly un-Trumpian. If we’re going to make America great again, we need prove we can help all of mankind, right?
Ah, now we’re cooking: xenophobia becomes its own argument against refugees! If people in the Facebook comments hate refugees, refugees wouldn’t feel safe here, so refugees shouldn’t come here. Clever, but that’s still a snake that deserves to choke on its own tail.
Notice that in Lutheran Social Services’ discussion of considering Aberdeen as a primary refugee resettlement site, we aren’t yet talking about a specific new government program with explicit increased government spending. Yet the anti-immigrant conservatives are now calling on city government to expand its powers and spending to help other people in need. Funny how conservatism waxes and wanes to suit the argument of the moment.
If xenophobes are going to cite inability to use proper English to justify discrimination against foreigners, they’re going to need to use proper English in their arguments.
I’m sure refugees fleeing for their lives appreciate such brilliant satire.
And then the wife of a disabled veteran steps in to poke holes in all the fake flag-waving:
Not that good sense does much good. On a second AAN Facebook post, someone cries Cooties! and
Facebook is a barroom for verbal brawlers. It is also a barometer of public sentiment. But then so are elections, and Mayor Levsen, supporter of immigration and refugees, has won three of them here in Aberdeen. Let’s hope he or someone of similar humanitarian and practical sentiment, wins the next mayoral election in 2019.