In September 2019, President Trump issued an executive order requiring state and local governments to provide written consent before refugees could be directly resettled in their jurisdictions. This consent has brought forth many questions about the refugee resettlement program and general immigration as well.
Refugees are people who have been forced to flee their home countries due to violence or persecution based on religion, race, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.
Refugees are thoroughly vetted by eight federal agencies including the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the National Counterterrorism Center and the FBI and cannot come to the U.S. without this vetting.
The refugee resettlement program has nothing to do with the asylum crisis at the southern border or with undocumented people. It has nothing to do with whether people want refugees or immigrants to live in their county.
The consent is solely to determine whether or not a community will allow refugees make their communities their first home in the U.S.
Once refugees arrive in the U.S., they are 100 percent lawfully present. Once resettled, refugees may move to any state or community they choose, just like people born here.
If a county denied consent, it would not close their “gates” to refugees. It would only prevent people from coming to their county first.
United Community Action Partnership (UCAP) operates a small refugee resettlement program in Lyon and Nobles counties. Since UCAP started doing this work in 2014, there have been no requests for resettlement in Redwood County, nor are we aware of any requesting to resettle there.
This may be because our program restricts refugees from being placed with our agency if they do not have a U.S. family tie. This means our program reunites families. We have reunited husbands and wives, parents and children, sisters and brothers, etc. Some of them have lived apart for decades, and they are so grateful to make their families whole again.
Not allowing them to resettle directly where their families are means that they will resettle elsewhere, but most likely move to that community later anyway.
Questions have been raised about the cost of this program to the counties where refugees are resettled. This program is 100 percent federally funded.
Denying consent means those federal dollars would be spent elsewhere even if the refugee later decides to move to a county denying consent. In that case, refugees would have no support staff to monitor their progress, ensure that they have had health exams, assist with enrolling kids in school, getting a job, understanding the local cultures and laws.
These services drastically increase their resettlement success.
In fact, 100 percent of able-bodied adults resettled through our program have been employed and are paying taxes within 30-90 days of arrival.
Ultimately, the consent may not be necessary. In November 2019, a lawsuit was filed challenging the legality of the executive order.
On Jan. 15, a U.S. district judge issued a preliminary injunction halting the implementation of the order. While this decision could be appealed at some point, refugee resettlement programs will continue as they had been.
– Angela Larson serves as a family services director for United Community Action Partnership