A federal judge on Wednesday blocked the Trump administration from enforcing an executive order that would allow state and local governments to opt out of the refugee resettlement program.
A coalition of faith-based refugee resettlement agencies — Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Church World Service, and Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society — sued the administration in November to block the policy, saying the executive order "violates federal law, which requires federal agencies to make decisions about where refugees are to be placed within the United States according to a detailed list of factors, leaving no room for state and local governments to veto decisions related to refugee policy."
Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte essentially agreed, saying in a 31-page opinion that giving state and local governments veto power over resettlement “flies in the face of clear Congressional intent, as expressed in the legislative history of the statute.”
“We’re grateful to Judge Messitte for upholding the rule of law and ensuring that the United States remains a place of welcome for the world’s most vulnerable,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of LIRS, in a news release. “We have been successfully collaborating with communities and federal, state, and local governments for decades, and this ruling allows us to seamlessly continue that life-saving work.”
Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that Texas would be the first state to refuse consent for refugee resettlement under the policy, prompting condemnation from agencies and faith groups, including every Catholic bishop in the state. So far, 42 governors and more than 100 local governments have agreed to continue refugee resettlement, according to an LIRS tally.
"An overwhelming majority of governors and municipalities have already expressed their desire to continue welcoming refugees," HIAS President and CEO Mark J. Hetfield said in a statement. "To those few who have not, we say not only is it unkind and un-American to ban refugees from your states and towns, but it is unlawful. HIAS will continue our work resettling refugees who have come to our shores looking to restart their lives in safety.”