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Federal Judge Blocks Trump Executive Order Limiting Refugee Resettlements

A federal judge in Maryland on Wednesday blocked President Donald Trump’s September executive order empowering state and municipal governments to refuse to resettle refugees within their jurisdictions.

In a 31-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte agreed to issue a preliminary injunction requested by the three national refugee resettlement agencies that filed a lawsuit in November challenging the order. The order required the agencies to obtain the written consent of the state and local governments before they could resettle any future refugees.

In the initial lawsuit, the Agencies said the order violated the Refugee Act of 1980, which encouraged the resettling of refugees “in consultation” with state and local authorities.

The Agencies said the order was not only illegal, but also “little more than a politically motivated decision that will engender hate and divisiveness throughout the country.”

The government responded by claiming that because the president has the authority to determine how many refugees may be resettled each year, a subset of that power allows him to “decree that States and Local Governments should have the authority to determine, without respect to any consultative process established by statute, whether, if at all, refugees may inhabit their communities.”

But Messitte reasoned that, based on the language of the congressional statute for resettling refugees — which “speaks in terms of ‘consulting’ and ‘consultation’ between and among the Resettlement Agencies and State and Local Governments” — Trump’s executive order actively undermined the law in a way that would irreparably harm the Agencies.

“Those State and Local Governments can simply give or withhold their written consents to the resettlement of refugees within their borders. If they do not consent – apparently for any reason or for no reason – there will be no resettlement in that entire State or in that local community. Resettlement Agencies will be totally sidelined,” Messitte wrote, adding, “In other words, as the screens in e-sports inevitably register: ‘Game Over.’”

The decision comes less than a week after Texas became the first state to wield the power delegated by Trump’s order in declaring that it would no longer accept any addition refugees for resettlement.

Mark Hetfield, the president and CEO of HIAS, one of the plaintiff agencies applauded the ruling.

“This ruling shows the country how this administration was wrong to attempt a state-by-state refugee ban,” Hetfield said. “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.”

Read the full order below:

Refugee Resettlement Order by Law&Crime on Scribd

[image via SAUL LOEB_AFP via Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.