By Mica Rosenberg
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A U.S. federal judge ruled Wednesday to block an order from President Donald Trump that would only allow refugees to be resettled if government and local officials agreed to accept them.
A coalition of refugee settlement groups in Maryland filed a lawsuit in November to stop the executive order signed by Trump in September.
Republican governor Greg Abbott of Texas, who is relocating more refugees than any other state, was the first official in the state to refuse to accept refugees last week.
The recent decision by US District Judge Peter Messitte temporarily prevents the US government from enforcing this position. The U.S. Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the verdict.
So far, 42 governors – 19 of them Republicans – and more than 100 local governments have approved resettlement. This resulted in a record of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, one of the organizations that brought the lawsuit.
The Trump administration said the consent requirement aims to ensure that the communities that receive refugees have the resources to integrate them into their population.
Resettlement groups of refugees, however, state that it is unconstitutional to veto local governors and mayors who they accept. This would disrupt the way the groups work.
Reducing immigration was at the heart of Trump’s presidential and re-election campaign for 2020. One of his first moves after taking office in January 2017 was to cut a plan drawn up by President Barack Obama, a Democrat, to resettle 110,000 refugees in the 2017 fiscal year the ceiling was lowered every year Trump was in office.
The administration has set an upper limit of 18,000 refugee admissions for 2020, the lowest since the start of the modern refugee program in 1980.
Trump said during a campaign rally in Minnesota in October that he had committed “to give local communities a greater say in refugee policy” and to step up the review.
Immigration experts claim that new arrivals who are thoroughly examined and enter the country with legal status often fill jobs quickly and contribute to local tax revenue.
According to the U.S. State Department guidelines for the nine national resettlement agencies released last year, the groups must seek approval from governors and officers in areas where refugees are to be housed. Agencies must submit funding proposals to the State Department by January 21.
(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg; editing by Bernadette Baum)