“Granting states and local governments the power to consent to the resettlement of refugees, that is, the veto power to determine whether refugees will be received in their midst, opposes the clear intention of Congress,” Messitte wrote in A 31 page decision page.
The judge said that the granting of a veto power by the administration is “arbitrary and capricious, as well as inherently susceptible to hidden prejudices.”
“One must ask exactly what the reason is to completely eliminate a process that has worked so successfully for so long,” he wrote. “And why now?”
The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by three refugee resettlement agencies that work with the State Department to receive adults and children in the United States who fled war and persecution in other countries.
Trump issued the order in September to give locals a voice in the federal resettlement process for the first time and promised to resettle refugees only in “anxious and equipped” areas to receive them.
But resettlement agencies argued in court that the consent requirement has caused chaos and confusion and that it threatens to dismantle a support network that connects refugees with the housing, employment and English classes necessary to start their new life. in the U.S. And critics argued that nothing in Trump’s order prevents refugees from finally moving to states, counties and cities that have said they don’t want new refugees.
The resettlement agencies asked Messitte, nominated by Bill Clinton, to govern quickly because letters of approval must be submitted starting January 21 if refugees begin arriving in June. Resettlement workers have been in a “frenzy” seeking approval from state and local governments, the judge wrote, distracting them from their main mission.
Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of the Lutheran Immigration Refugee Service, one of the agencies that filed the lawsuit, said the mandate “provides critical relief.”
“Those who have been waiting for years to reunite with their families and friends will no longer have to choose between their loved ones and the resettlement services that are as critical in their early months as new Americans,” he said.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the ruling, which the government can appeal.
So far, 42 governors and more than 100 local governments have signed letters of acceptance, indicating that they would be willing to accept refugees, according to the Lutheran refugee agency. Seven states have not said whether they would accept refugees: Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Hawaii and Wyoming.
Last week, Texas became the first state to publicly refuse to resettle new refugees, and Governor Greg Abbott (R) said the state “has taken more than its due.” Texas received more than 2,400 refugees during the last fiscal year, most of them any state.
Abbott’s office did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday after the court ruling.
Trump administration attorneys defended the policy, calling it a “common sense requirement” that encourages local input.
Justice Department attorney Bradley Humphreys said Trump’s order does not grant local officials the power to “veto” because the US secretary of state can overturn his decisions.
Resettlement groups said the rule could prevent refugees from meeting friends and family based in the US. UU. May they support you.
Kathleen Jones, vice president of the Burleigh County commission in North Dakota, who voted shortly in December to accept refugees, applauded the ruling.
“In a word, it’s’ Hallelujah,” Jones said. “I really feel that the Trump administration didn’t have to put its nose in this.”
But Brian Bitner, another commissioner from Burleigh County, said he was disappointed that the ruling stripped the locals of their new influence on the resettlement of refugees. Burleigh County had publicly debated the issue for hours and probably would have debated it again next year, since Trump’s order requires an annual consideration of refugee resettlement.
“I would be disappointed if we went through all these problems, time and effort for nothing,” said Bitner, who voted against resettling refugees due to questions about the cost.