Opponents Blast Refugee Moratorium Bill

Apr 10, 2012


A bill that would allow communities to ask for a one-year moratorium on refugee resettlement has made it to a Senate Committee, but critics of the bill are piling up.


This moratorium bill has traveled a winding road to get to the senate.

The house committee that first heard recommended – almost unanimously – to kill it.

The full house then voted nearly two to one to pass it.

Now that it’s being heard by the senate, it’s drawing fresh opposition.

Alier: What about me, what about me, anyone cares about me?

Sarah Alier is a refugee and president of the South Sudan Community of New Hampshire.

She was one of several leaders from the refugee community who spoke out against the moratorium bill.

Several others at the hearing – including UNH law professor Buzz Scherr – argued that the bill runs afoul of the constitution in a basic way: it tells people where they can, or can’t, live.

Scherr: and that’s what this legislation does, it isolates a particular group of legal residents, political and economic refugees, new to this country, and says for this one year period you can’t come here.

Other opponents testified the bill as drafted would be impossible to implement.

Jennifer Jones is a lawyer with the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human services, which oversees refugee resettlement.  

Jones: it directs the department of health and human services to do a number of things that we have no authority or ability to do.

But the bill’s backers, primarily Manchester officials, are remain convinced that it’s necessary and far from radical.

Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas is the prime mover behind the bill.

Gatsas: I’m not looking for a moratorium forever, I’m looking for a moratorium to allow the people who are here in Manchester to learn the language, become successful and become participants in our society.

Expect both sides to participate heavily until this debate is decided.

When that is isn’t clear. The committee that heard the bill is slated to make its recommendation to the full senate next week.

In the meantime opponents of the moratorium say plans are in the works to form bipartisan group to look at the problems with refugee resettlement in New Hampshire.

They hope to find something all sides can agree on.