A federal judge ruled on Wednesday, that President Trump can’t give state and local governments “veto power” to reject refugees from resettling within their borders.
U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte, a Clinton nomine agreed to block Trump’s executive order requiring resettlement agencies to get written consent from state and local officials in any jurisdiction where they want to resettle refugees beyond June.
In his 31-page ruling, Messitte said the agencies are likely to succeed in showing that November’s executive order is unlawful because it gives state and local governments veto power over the resettlement of refugees. The judge issued a preliminary injunction requested by three resettlement agencies that sued to challenge the executive order.
Messitte concluded Trump’s order doesn’t appear to serve the “overall public interest.”
“Refugee resettlement activity should go forward as it developed for the almost 40 years before [the executive order] was announced,” he wrote.
The administration didn’t immediately say whether it will appeal Messitte’s decision. The State Department said it is reviewing the decision and has no immediate comment.
Church World Service, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and HIAS — a Jewish nonprofit — filed the lawsuit in Greenbelt, Md., on Nov. 21. They are three of the nine national organizations that have agreements with the federal government to provide housing and other services for refugees. The agencies argued the order illegally conflicts with the 1980 Refugee Act.
Texas, which took in more refugees than any other state during the 2018 fiscal year, became the first state known to reject the resettlement of new refugees. Gov. Greg Abbott said in a letter released Friday that Texas “has been left by Congress to deal with disproportionate migration issues resulting from a broken federal immigration system.”
The head of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, said the ruling puts on hold a policy that was causing “irreparable harm to refugee families and resettlement agencies already.” She added that it essentially reopens the door to refugees being resettled in Texas.
“It’s a significant day in which the rule of law won,” O’Mara Vignarajah said.
So far, 42 states have publicly agreed to accept refugees, but a governor’s decision wouldn’t preclude local officials from refusing to give their consent. For instance, the Democratic mayor of Springfield, Mass., has refused to give written consent for refugees to be resettled in the city.
Trump’s order says his administration acted to respect communities that believe they do not have the jobs or other resources to be able to take in refugees. Refugees have the right to move anywhere in the U.S. after their initial resettlement, but at their own expense.
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