CAMBRIA COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — State Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, is calling for public hearings after a local nonprofit’s proposal to relocate Afghanistan refugees has sparked questions and concerns from Cambria County residents.

Burns requested the hearings from local officials after he said residents made him aware of a proposal by Johnstown’s Vision Together 2025 to resettle the refugees in the county. The volunteer-based organizations’ plan is reportedly aimed at stopping population loss and filling open jobs across the region.

However, news of the proposal has community members asking for answers and voicing concerns over potential impacts on schools, hospitals, police departments and homeowners, according to Burns.

“As a lawmaker committed to government transparency, I am asking the county commissioners and Johnstown’s city council to hold public hearings on Vision Together 2025’s proposal to relocate Afghan refugees in our area,” Burns said. “I believe local taxpayers, school boards and property owners should be front and center in any such discussion. They deserve to have their voices heard before any decisions are made.”

In a written statement, Vision Together 2025 President and CEO Mike Tedesco says reversing population loss is the nonprofit’s number one concern and adds their recent proposal to attract immigrants to the area is one of many being explored.

“Vision Together 2025 is simply investigating successful programs in other parts of the country which brought in a small number of vetted, legal immigrants who could be matched up with jobs that they are educated and qualified to fill,” Tedesco said. “Cambria County right now has more than 1-thousand open jobs in almost every industry. Similar programs have worked very well in other parts of the country. Rest assured, we are only pursuing legal immigrants from around the world and not specifically focusing on one country or one group of people.”

Tedesco finished his statement by saying they are committed to making safe and successful communities and reassures they have no agendas aside from economic growth.

In response, Burns disagreed with their economic plan and says there is a better solution.

“I believe the best way to grow Cambria County’s population and skilled workforce is through job creation, job training and fair wages; not by relocating refugees from Afghanistan as is being explored by Johnstown’s Vision Together 2025,” Burns said. “It’s time to pump the brakes on this plan and give the public a chance to voice their concerns, this is America after all.”

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