Judge Blocks Executive Order Giving Veto Power to State and Local Officials in Refugee Resettlement
Three faith-based resettlement agencies brought the challenge against the unprecedented order
Today, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction in the lawsuit HIAS v. Trump, in the United States District Court of Maryland, blocking an executive order that for the first time in the history of the U.S. refugee resettlement program gave state and local officials the power to veto resettlement in their jurisdictions. The judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, three faith-based resettlement agencies, HIAS, Church World Service (CWS), and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service(LIRS), whose work and mission have been directly impacted and harmed by the order.
In his decision, Judge Messitte stated that the executive order is likely unlawful as it indeed “grants [states and localities] veto power” and that this “flies in the face of clear Congressional intent, as expressed in the legislative history of the statute.” In enjoining the order, he called for refugee resettlement to “go forward as it developed for the almost 40 years before Executive Order 13888 was announced.”
His ruling followed a hearing on January 8, during which plaintiffs’ attorneys, lawyers at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), argued that the order violated federal law and is causing irreparable harm to the resettlement agencies and the refugees they have been tasked with assisting in rebuilding their lives here in the United States.
Even prior to the injunction, the premise of the Administration’s order – to allow states and localities to stop refugees from resettling in their areas – had proven unsuccessful, with the overwhelming majority of both Republican and Democrat governors and county officials across the country voicing their continuing commitment to welcoming refugees. However, today’s court order ensures that the Administration cannot continue to burden the resettlement agencies with the work of implementing its illegal mandate.
Mark J. Hetfield, President and CEO, HIAS:
“This ruling shows the country how this administration was wrong to attempt a state-by-state refugee ban. Judge Messitte found it likely that the executive order is unlawful, and we are grateful for the clarity of this injunction. An overwhelming majority of governors and municipalities have already expressed their desire to continue welcoming refugees. To those few who have not, we say not only is it unkind and un-American to ban refugees from your states and towns, but it is unlawful. HIAS will continue our work resettling refugees who have come to our shores looking to restart their lives in safety.”
Melanie Nathan, African Human Rights Coalition:
“This ruling was critical to the wellbeing of all refugees and most significant for LGBTI refuges who are a community requiring unfettered resettlement and who may well have been the target of particular discriminatory practices if Trump’s order were allowed to prevail. The current conditions for LGBTQI refugees abroad is harsh and they remain vulnerable even with the protection cycle for migrants. The pipeline is tight and any added hardships such as Trump’s EO would have had a disastrous ripple impact. African HCR thanks HIAS and the other Plaintiffs for their unrelenting stance in this matter, their hard work and commitment to all refugees.”
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