Warren, Michigan Mayor: Don’t Send Us Iraqi Refugees

Warren, Michigan Mayor: Don't Send Us Iraqi Refugees

July 19, 2007

Warren Mayor Mark Steenbergh claims the federal government is looking to relocate more than 16,000 Iraqi refugees to Warren and Sterling Heights — and there's no way his city can handle it.

From City of Warren…

Warren Mayor Questions Placement of Iraqi Refugees in City

Thousands of Iraqi refugees may soon be placed in Warren, according to information provided to city officials. I dont understand how the federal government believes we can handle those kinds of numbers, said Mayor Mark Steenbergh. If the numbers shared with my staff are accurate, Im extremely concerned that we cannot handle this burden placed upon our resources.

Warren officials have been discussing the Iraqi refugee placement with staff from the Macomb County Planning Department. County officials told local officials at a meeting held last week that the possibility of thousands of refugees coming to Warren exists. County planners say the federal government agreed to accept up to 25,000 Iraqi refugees to the United States this past April. In order to obtain refugee status with the United States Department of State, applicants must first list someone living here as a contact person. As such, sixty-six percent of the total refugee allotment may be located in the cities of Warren and Sterling Heights due to the large number of Iraqi immigrants already residing in those communities.

We were told ninety Iraqi refugees are due to arrive very soon with many more to follow, said Steenbergh. Ive been told that these refugees will be given assistance in locating housing and in learning English. Will the City of Warren receive assistance for the burden placed upon our services with so many people set to arrive? Will our schools be given assistance with the need to educate so many more non English speaking children?

My biggest concern is where the refugees will find employment? asked Steenbergh. The economy is horrible in southeastern Michigan. Where are the jobs the refugees will need? Long time Warren residents are having trouble finding jobs. This is not the time to add more people to a shrinking pool of employment.

Steenbergh plans to contact federal officials to clarify the Iraqi refugee situation: We are in the process of working with our federal elected officials, including President George Bush, about this. These numbers are staggering. As long as Im mayor, I will oppose any plan to unfairly burden our community.