Burns calls for public hearings on Vision 2025 plan to relocate Afghan refugees to region

Lawmaker responding to questions, concerns from community over nonprofit proposal

EBENSBURG, Jan. 6 – Spurred by questions and concerns he's fielded from local taxpayers, state Rep. Frank Burns is calling for public hearings and community feedback regarding the proposed resettlement of Afghan refugees to take skilled jobs in Cambria County.

Burns, D-Cambria, noted Vision Together 2025 is a nonprofit corporation, not a government body, and thus has no authority to enact any policy. However, news of their plan to bring Afghan refugees to the community has people clamoring for more information, and as an elected official it's his job to take a stand and help residents get answers.

"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.”

Burns, who sent a letter to local officials requesting a public hearing, said he became aware of Vision Together 2025’s proposal after it was brought to his attention by local taxpayers with questions about impacts on schools, hospitals, police departments and homeowners.

“There are a lot of questions that need to be answered before the board of a local nonprofit decides what is in our best interests,” Burns said. “The community needs a chance to weigh in on this issue before it goes any further.”

In a statement to the news media, Vision Together 2025 said it is looking at bringing refugees to the region as a way to stop population loss and grow the skilled labor force. Burns, who has for years fought to build and expand job training programs, by securing millions of dollars of state funding for local career development organizations, said he disagreed.

“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."