Judge agrees to block Trump order on refugee resettlement
SILVER SPRING, Md. — A federal judge agreed Wednesday to block the Trump administration from enforcing an executive order allowing state and local government officials to reject refugees from resettling in their jurisdictions.
U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte in Maryland issued a preliminary injunction requested by three national refugee resettlement agencies that sued to challenge the executive order.
In his 31-page ruling, Messitte said the agencies are likely to succeed in showing that the executive order is unlawful because it gives state and local governments veto power over the resettlement of refugees.
President Trump’s administration announced in November that resettlement agencies must get written consent from state and local officials in any jurisdiction where they want to help resettle refugees beyond June 2020.
Agency leaders say the order effectively gives governors and county leaders a veto in the resettlement process. The agencies also argue the order illegally conflicts with the 1980 Refugee Act.
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.
Church World Service, 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.
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 Jan. 10 that Texas “has been left by Congress to deal with disproportionate migration issues resulting from a broken federal immigration system.”
The head of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, said the ruling for now puts on hold a policy that was causing “irreparable harm to refugee families and resettlement agencies already.”
“It’s a significant day in which the rule of law won,” O’Mara Vignarajah said.
At least 41 states have publicly agreed to accept refugees.
Michael Kunzelman is an Associated Press writer.