On November 1, 2019, as discussed in an earlier post, President Trump set 18,000 as the quota for refugee admissions into the U.S. for Fiscal 2020 (October 1, 2019—September 30, 2020).
Executive Order for Local Consent
Previously, on September 28, President Trump issued an executive order requiring state and local governments to provide written consents to refugee resettlements for Fiscal 2020.  The stated purpose of this order sounded reasonable:
- “In resettling refugees into American communities, it is the policy of the United States to cooperate and consult with State and local governments, to take into account the preferences of State governments, and to provide a pathway for refugees to become self-sufficient. These policies support each other. Close cooperation with State and local governments ensures that refugees are resettled in communities that are eager and equipped to support their successful integration into American society and the labor force.”
This statement of purpose, however, went on to say that this requirement was “to be respectful of those communities that may not be able to accommodate refugee resettlement. State and local governments are best positioned to know the resources and capacities they may or may not have available to devote to sustainable resettlement, which maximizes the likelihood refugees placed in the area will become self-sufficient and free from long-term dependence on public assistance.” (Emphasis added.)
The Order then provided that “Within 90 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall develop and implement a process to determine whether the State and locality both consent, in writing, to the resettlement of refugees within the State and locality.”
State and HHS Departments’ Comments
Presumably on or after September 28, the State Department stated the following: Pursuant to this Executive Order, “the Department of State will seek to ensure that newly-arrived refugees are placed in communities where the state and local governments have consented to receive them. Close cooperation with state and local governments ensures that refugees are resettled in communities that are eager and equipped to support their successful integration into American society and labor force.”
However, research did not discover a State Department “policy to determine whether the State and locality both consent, in writing, to the resettlement of refugees within the State and locality.” Nor did research uncover anything from HHS or its Office of Refugee Resettlement on this subject or on any deadline for providing such written consent although one of the secondary sources cited in this post said that January 31 was the deadline.
State and Local Governments’ Responses
Another failure of research: no comprehensive list of state and local governments that to date have consented and not consented to resettlement.
Instead, there have been articles about the State of Utah welcoming resettled refugees. The state’s leading religious faith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, supported this decision. It said that the Church has ““great concern and compassion” for people around the world “who have fled their homes seeking relief from violence, war, or religious persecution.” It added, “As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are deeply committed to living the two great commandments to love God and love our neighbor. We feel tremendous joy in helping all of God’s children, no matter where they may live in this world.”
Another state granting consent was North Dakota. Its Republican Governor, Doug Burgum, on November 19, sent a letter to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, saying, “North Dakota has had success at integrating refugees who have become responsible citizens and productive members of the workforce. Therefore, with ongoing diligence, North Dakota consents to receive resettlement of refugees, in conjunction with the continued assent and cooperation of local jurisdiction in our state.”
This state consent then led to speculation that at least one county in the state, the one including the state capital of Bismarck, would not so consent. But on December 9 that county’s commission voted, 3-2 to continue accepting up to 25 new refugees after four-hours of impassioned testimony from residents. Governor Burgum said in the midst of this local debate that he had ““serious concerns that denying resettlement to a handful of well-vetted and often family-connected refugees would send a negative signal beyond our borders at a time when North Dakota is facing a severe workforce shortage and trying to attract capital and talent to our state.” Moreover, at least two other counties in the state have also consented.
The State of Minnesota has not yet registered its position on this issue although a trusted source said that the State would consent and that it was drafting such a positive response with reasons why such resettlements would be good for Minnesota. In the meantime, some local authorities in the stata were having difficulties in deciding whether or not to consent. The largest city (Willmar) of the western county of Kandiyohi has foreign-born residents constituting 15.8% of its population, and its county board voted 3-2 to accept refugees. The Director of Refugee Services at the International Institute of Minnesota, Micaela Schuneman, observed that new arrivals were vital to the state’s economic growth and to bring families together. “Every time there’s a new hurdle to go through, it’s just more time that families are apart and that people are not being able to start their life in the United States.” 
The statement of the North Dakota Governor should be applauded and discussed in other states and counties considering whether or not to consent. Many states have aging and declining population and labor shortages. Therefore, they need immigrants, especially in rural areas.
 White House, Executive Order on Enhancing State and Local Involvement in Refugee Resettlement (Sept. 28, 2019).
 State Dep’t, Report to Congress on Proposed Refugee Admissions for FY 2020; State Dep’t, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Placement: Reception and Placement.
 Witte, Trump gave states the power to ban refugees. Conservative Utah wants more of them, Wash. Post (Dec. 2, 2019); Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, First Presidency Releases Statement on Refugees (Dec. 2, 2019); Assoc. Press, Latter-Day Saints Leaders Reaffirm Support for Refugees, N.Y. Times (Dec. 9, 2019).
 Letter, Governor Burgum to Secretary Pompeo (Nov. 19, 2019).
 Assoc. Press, North Dakota County May Become US’s 1st to Bar New Refugees, N.Y. Times (Dec.8, 2019); Farzan, A North Dakota county was poised to be first to bar refugees under Trump’s executive order. Residents said no, Wash. Post (Dec. 10, 2019); Assoc. Press, North Dakota County Votes to Take Limited Number of Refugees, N.Y. Times (Dec. 9, 2019); Gebelhoff, A pro-Trump county rebuked the president. It deserves our gratitude, Wash. Post (Dec. 12, 2019).
 Rao, Local approval for refugee resettlement sparks heated debate in Minnesota counties, StarTribune (Dec. 8, 2019).
 Kelly, Letter to Editor: Refugees are critical to our economic and cultural success, Wash. Post (Dec. 8, 2019). See also, e.g., these posts to dwkcommentaries.com: More Warnings of the Problems Facing U.S. Aging, Declining Population (Aug. 14, 2019); Another Report About U.S. Need for More Immigrants (Aug. 25, 2019); Minnesota’s Challenges of Declining, Aging Population (Oct. 2, 2019); Worthington’s Mayor Defends City (Oct. 3, 2019); Prominent Economist Says Cuts in U.S. Immigration Threaten U.S. Economy and Innovation (Oct. 12, 2019).
13 thoughts on “Latest U.S. Struggle Over Refugees”
North Dakota County Affirms Consent to Refugee Resettlement
As noted in the above post, the Board for North Dakota’s Burleigh County on December 9, 2019, voted 3-2 to consent to resettlement of 25 refugees for Fiscal 2020. On December 6, 2020, by the same vote, 3-2, it rejected “a potential ballot question relating to future refugee resettlement” and thereby affirmed its prior decision.
Assoc. Press, North Dakota County Rejects Poll on Refugee Resettlement, N.Y. Times (Jan. 6, 2020), https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2020/01/06/us/ap-us-limiting-refugees.html