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.