Federal Court Blocks Executive Order Giving States Veto Power over Refugee Resettlement

On January 15, 2020, a federal court in Maryland issued a preliminary injunction blocking President Trump’s September 26, 2019 Executive Order (E.O.) giving states and localities veto power over refugee resettlement in their jurisdictions.   The court found that the plaintiff refugee resettlement agencies had shown a likelihood of succeeding on the merits of their legal challenge to the E.O.

The administration had already decided to cap the number of refugees that would be resettled in the U.S. in FY2020 at 18,000, the lowest level by far since 1980, and a dramatic drop from the 118,000 cap in FY 2016.  But the E.O., by requiring express written consent from states and localities before any refugees could be resettled in their midst, further undermined the Refugee Act of 1980’s commitment to resettle individuals forced to flee their countries due to persecution.

Prior to the injunction, governors of 42 states had granted their consent, including Maine’s Governor Janet Mills, as explained here.  But on January 10, 2020, Texas’s Governor Greg Abbott became the first to deny consent, even though Bexar and Dallas Counties, home to San Antonio and Dallas-Ft. Worth, respectively, had confirmed they wanted to continue welcoming refugees, both as a humanitarian imperative, and because of the contributions that refugees make to their communities.

With the preliminary injunction, refugees can be resettled in Texas and nationwide, while litigation on the legality of the E.O. continues.