President Trump’s Unjust Criticism of Court’s Enjoining the Consent Procedure for Refugee Resettlement

As discussed in a prior post, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland on January 15 issued a preliminary injunction halting enforcement of the President’s executive order requiring state and local governments to consent to refugee resettlements.

 President Trump’s Criticism of Court’s Decision

Later that same day, President Trump issued a statement criticizing that court’s decision.[1] Here is what it said:

  • “Another lawless district court has asserted its own preferred immigration policy in place of the laws of the United States – and, in so doing, robbed millions of American citizens of their voice and their say in a vital issue directly affecting their communities.  President Trump rightly and justly recognized that your communities are unique, and while some cities have the resources to adequately support refugees and help them be successful, not all communities can sustain the substantial and costly burden.  Knowing that, the Trump Administration fulfilled a key promise by giving States and localities a seat at the table in deciding whether or not refugees will be placed in your communities.  In addition, under the Refugee Act of 1980, Congress explicitly afforded the President authority over the refugee resettlement process, including by taking local consultation into account.  This is a preposterous ruling, one more example of nationwide district court injunctions run amok, and we are expeditiously reviewing all options to protect our communities and preserve the integrity of the refugee resettlement process.”

Court: State and Local Governments’ Involvement in Process

This truculent presidential statement totally ignores the court’s reasoned discussion (with appropriate legal citations) of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (RAP), which existed before this executive order. RAP “is jointly administered by a division within the Department of State (DOS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). . . Once DHS conditionally approves an applicant for resettlement, the prospective refugee receives ‘sponsorship assurance’ from one of the nine Resettlement Agencies that has entered into a cooperative agreement with the State Department to assist in the resettlement of refugees.”[2]

“The Resettlement Agency then assumes responsibility for placing the prospective refugee with one of its [local] affiliates. . . . Heretofore, pursuant to 8 U.S.C. sec. 1552(a) . . ., the Federal resettlement authorities and the Resettlement Agencies have been directed to meet and consult with State and Local governments in order to establish policies and strategies for the placement and resettlement of the refugees, in the course of which, acting in concert, they are directed to take into account several factors, including the availability of employment opportunities, affordable housing, and public and private resources in the destination (e.g. educational, healthcare, and mental health resources).” (Emphasis added by blogger.)[3]

As support for this conclusion, the court quoted the following provisions of the federal statute (8 U.S.C. sec. 1522) setting forth the “’conditions and considerations’ for authorizing for programs for the initial resettlement of  and assistance to refugees:”[4]

  • “‘The Director and the Federal agency administering [the program of initial resettlement] shall consult regularly (not less often than quarterly) with State and Local governments and private nonprofit voluntary agencies concerning the sponsorship process and the intended distribution of refugees among the States and localities before their placement in those States and localities.’” (Emphasis provided by court and re-emphasized by this blogger.)
  • “’The Director shall develop and implement, in consultation with representatives of voluntary agencies and State and local governments, policies and strategies for the placement and resettlement of refugess within the United States.’” (Emphasis provided by court and re-emphasized by this blogger.)
  • A “’refugee is not initially placed or resettled in an area highly impacted(as determined . . . after consultation with such agencies and governments.’” (Emphasis provided by court and re-emphasized by this blogger.)
  • There shall be “’a mechanism whereby representatives of local affiliates of voluntary agencies regularly (not less often than quarterly) meet with representatives of State and local governments to plan and coordinate in advance of their arrival.’” (Emphasis provided by court and re-emphasized by this blogger.)
  • “’with respect to the location of placement of refugees within a State, the federal agency admistering [the program] shall, consistent with such policies and strategies and to the maximum extent possible, take into account recommendations of the State.’” (Emphasis provided by court and re-empasized by this blogger.)

Conclusion

 The court’s opinion rationally with appropriate legal citations demonstrates that RAP in various ways requires collaboration with State and local governments over refugee resettlement. The President’s response through the Press Secretary does not meet this high standard and should be criticized and then ignored.

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[1] White House, Statement by the Press Secretary on the Injunction Prohibiting Responsible Refugee Resettlement (Jan. 15, 2020).

[2] Memorandum Opinion at 7-8, Hias, Inc. v. Trump, Civil No. PJM 19-3346 (D. Md. Jan. 15, 2020). It should be mentioned that three of the nine Resettlement Agencies are the plaintiffs in the case in which the court enjoined the consent procedure. (Id. at 1.)

[3] Id. at 7-10.

[4] Id. at 17-18.

Blowback on Two Decisions on Refugee Resettlement 

Two Republican governors, Asa Hutchinson in Arkansas and Greg Abbott in Texas, reached opposite decisions on refugee resettlement. Hutchinson said, “yes;” Abbott, “no.” [1] Both have received blowback.

Arkansas[2]

In Arkansas, some GOP state legislators said they unpleasantly were surprised by Hutchinson’s decision to consent to resettlement and asked him to appear before a legislative committee to explain and justify his decision.

The Governor did that on January 13 and emphasized that his decision was buttressed by the U.S. “acceptance of refugees who have aided overseas U.S. military personnel and [the U.S.] heightened . . .level of security screenings” and by the likelihood that fewer than 50 refugees will likely come to the state’s northwestern Washington County under this program. He also told the committee, “Each of you are leaders in your community. You’ve got a choice to make: You can create fear or you can help resolve fear. I challenge you to help resolve fear, have the facts, and to talk about those.”

Another point by Hutchinson was the “cost-benefit analysis conducted by the Trump administration that found refugees contributed $63 billion more in state and federal taxes than they received between 2005 and 2014. He noted that refugees are typically eager to go to work and become self-sufficient. “I believe . . . it’s a positive thing that we bring immigrants to our country, that they benefit to us in terms of their work and their paying taxes.”

Hutchinson also personally introduced to the committee “a Congolese refugee, who after nearly two decades in a refugee camp in Kenya now lives in . . . [the state] and works as a certified nursing assistant at a senior living facility, and a refugee from Afghanistan who fled his native country after his life became endangered for helping U.S. authorities.”

After the hearing, Republican state Sen. Trent Garner, who had requested the meeting, said, “This isn’t an issue to create fear. This is about legitimate security concerns and having a major change happen and people not being informed.”

On the other hand, “refugee advocates said they were heartened by Hutchinson’s remarks and hoped they would help the public understand resettlement better.” According to Emily Crane Linn, executive director of Canopy Northwest Arkansas, a nonprofit refugee resettlement agency, “I hope that as people ask questions and as they learn the truth, they will come to feel the same way I do about this program, that it is part of what makes this country great, it’s part of what makes our state great and it’s absolutely something that should continue.”

Texas[3]

Governor Abbott’s decision was criticized by at least three faith-based organizations: the state’s Roman Catholic bishops, the Episcopal Church and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, the last  of which was discussed in the prior post about the decision.

The Texas Catholic Bishops said the Governor’s decision “is deeply discouraging and disheartening. While the . . . [Conference of 16 bishops] respects the governor, this decision is simply misguided. It denies people who are fleeing persecution, including religious persecution, from being able to bring their gifts and talents to our state and contribute to the general common good of all Texans. The refugees who have already resettled in Texas have made our communities even more vibrant. As Catholics, an essential aspect of our faith is to welcome the stranger and care for the alien. We use this occasion to commit ourselves even more ardently to work with all people of good will, including our federal, state and local governments, to help refugees integrate and become productive members of our communities.”

Governor Abbott “has cited his [Catholic] faith to support anti-abortion and other conservative policies. But on the issue of refugees, he sharply diverges from the official positions of his church ― and the example set by Pope Francis.[4]

The Episcopal Church “condemns Gov. Abbott’s decision to reject refugee resettlement in 2020. Texas has long served as a strong partner in the work of welcoming some of the most vulnerable individuals in the world to peace, safety, and a bright future. Texas Episcopalians have also given generously of their time, talents, and treasure to help our refugee brothers and sisters rebuild their lives in the Lone Star State.” The statement added the following:

  • “Texans have long been known for their southern hospitality and generosity of spirit. Additionally, many Texans are people of strong faith who take seriously the Gospel call to welcome the stranger and to help those who are fleeing religious persecution and violence. The Episcopal community in Texas shares these values.”
  • “Refugees bring immense value to communities throughout Texas. They have invigorated the economy, brought innovation to small towns, and made communities stronger through their contributions to public life and cultural institutions. Refugees in Texas are students, entrepreneurs, dedicated employees, customers, elected officials, and community leaders – just like us. They are us.”

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[1] See these posts to dwkcommentaries.com: Five Mores States Have Consented to Refugee Resettlement (Jan.7, 2020); Texas “No” to Refugee Resettlement (Jan. 11, 2020).

[2]  Field, Arkansas governor defends refugee decision, urges legislators to ‘help resolve fear,’ Ark. Democrat Gazette (Jan. 14, 2020); Assoc. Press, Arkansas Governor Defends Decision to Accept New Refugees, N.Y. Times (Jan. 13, 2020).

[3]   Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, Texas Catholic Bishops respond to Governor Abbott’s decision to turn away refugees (Jan.10, 2020); Kuruvilla, Texas Catholic Bishops Denounce Governor Abbott’s Decision To End Refugee Resettlement, HuffPost (Jan. 13, 2020); Burke, Every Catholic bishop in Texas is slamming Gov. Abbott’s decision to bar refugees, CNN (Jan. 13, 2020); Episcopal Church statement on Texas Gov. Abbott’s decision to reject refugee resettlement (Jan. 11, 2020).

[4] See Pope Francis Reminding Us To Welcome, Protect, Promote and Integrate Refugees and Migrants, dwkcommentaries. com (Jan. 1, 2020)..

Texas Refuses To Consent to Refugee Resettlement

On January 10, Governor Greg Abbott (Rep.) sent a letter to Secretary Pompeo announcing his state’s refusal to consent to refugee resettlement. His letter said, ““Texas has carried more than its share in assisting the refugee resettlement process and appreciates that other states are available to help with these efforts. Since FY2010, more refugees have been received in Texas than in any other state. In fact, over that decade, roughly 10% of all refugees resettled in the United States have been placed in Texas.” He added, “Texas has been left by Congress to deal with disproportionate migration issues resulting from a broken federal immigration system.” He also cited the recent surge in migrants crossing the southwestern border last year as a reason for turning away refugees now. [1]

This refusal was contrary to the desires of major cities in the state—San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. The Mayor of Houston reacted with these words: “Regardless of where someone is from, who they are or what they believe, there is a home for them in Houston. Our welcoming spirit has led to our city becoming the national leader in refugee resettlement.” Negative words also came from these groups:

  • Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service: “This is a deeply disappointing decision – although not surprising given Texas’ previous but unsuccessful opposition to refugee resettlement a few years ago. This is precisely why we filed a lawsuit against President Trump’s unlawful executive order, and we are confident that justice will be served — allowing children and families who have been waiting in desperation for years to be reunited with their family in Texas.” The Service added, “Nearly 2,500 refugees started to rebuild their lives in Texas last year, many of whom have additional family members in harm’s way seeking to join them in safety. These families have been torn apart by violence, war and persecution — but we never thought they would be needlessly separated by a U.S. state official.”
  • The International Rescue Committee: “In addition to making refugees’ lives harder, Texas now forfeits the opportunity for a growing business community that depends on refugees. It forfeits the cultural contributions, the growth, and ingenuity the state has come to enjoy through resettling refugees.”

The Texas decision leaves 40 consenting states (22 Democratic and 18 Republican) and 9 publicly not committed (7 Republican (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Vermont and Wyoming) and two Democratic (Hawaii and New York)). Remember that failure to respond before the deadline, which might be January 21, 2020, will be treated as a refusal to consent.[2]

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[1] Kanno-Youngs, Texas Governor Shuts Gate to Refugees, Using New Power Granted by Trump, N.Y. Times (Jan. 10, 2020); Romo, Gov. Greg Abbott Says New Refugees Won’t Be Allowed To Settle in Texas. NPR (Jan. 10, 2020); Thebault, Texas is rejecting new refugees under Trump executive order, Wash. Post (Jan. 10,2020); Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service Profoundly Disappointed by Texas Governor’s Decision To Opt Out of Refugee Resettlement (Jan. 10, 2020).

[2] See the following posts to dwkcommentaries about previous states’ consents: Latest U.S. Struggle Over Refugees (Dec. 11, 2019); Minnesota and Minneapolis Say “Yes” to Refugees (Dec. 14, 2019); Tennessee Consents to Refugee Resettlement (Dec. 20, 2019); Another Update on Consents to Refugee Resettlement (Dec. 30, 2019); Five More States Have Consented to Refugee Resettlement (Jan. 7, 2020): Alaska Says “Yes” to Refugee Resettlement (Jan.8, 2020).