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Faith groups sue over Trump order allowing states, localities to block refugee resettlement

Faith groups sue over Trump order allowing states, localities to block refugee resettlement

Protesters gather outside the Trump Building at 40 Wall St. to take action against America’s refugee ban in New York City, U.S., March 28, 2017. | (Photo: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

Three faith-based refugee resettlement organizations are suing the U.S. government in an attempt to stop President Donald Trump’s executive order giving state and local politicians the ability to block refugee resettlement within their jurisdictions.

Church World Service, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and HIAS, a Jewish nonprofit, announced they are filing a preliminary injunction motion in a Maryland federal court against Trump’s Sept. 26 order enhancing state and local involvement in refugee resettlement.

The organizations argue that Trump overstepped his authority by giving state and local officials “veto power” on refugee resettlement inside their borders. The nonprofits are represented by the legal group International Refugee Assistance Project.

“Congress has been clear. State and local governments are to be consulted in decisions about where refugees are placed in the United States,” said IRAP senior litigation staff attorney Melissa Keaney on a press call Thursday. 

“But the Refugee Act establishes Congress’ unmistakable intent that states and localities were given a voice but not a veto where refugees would be resettled.”

The president’s executive order requires refugee resettlement agencies to obtain written consent from all localities and states in which they plan to resettle refugees. 

If such written consent can’t be obtained, the groups argue, it could prevent resettlement agencies from maintaining local affiliate offices that provide services to refugees already in those areas. 

The plaintiffs, who are among nine nonprofit groups authorized to resettle refugees in the U.S., contend that the State Department placed an “immense and unlawful burden” on them by making it their responsibility to seek approval from state and local government leaders. 

They claim that the requirement “conflicts with the statutory scheme enacted by Congress and core principles of federalism.” 

“This executive order would allow the political decision of a single elected official to arbitrarily block a successful public-private partnership for local support for refugee resettlement,” argued Erol Kekic, senior vice president of CWS Immigration and Refugee Program. 

The lawsuit also charges that the executive order is part of an attempt by the Trump administration to “dismantle” the U.S. refugee resettlement program. Under the Trump administration, the annual U.S. refugee resettlement ceiling has been decreased to record lows since the passing of the Refugee Act in 1980. 

Although some refugee resettlement…

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