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Federal Judge Blocks Executive Order Preventing Refugee Resettlement

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With just a few weeks into the new year, the judicial branch has been hard at work issuing decisions that spell trouble for the Trump administration.

On Wednesday, January 15th a federal judge in Maryland issued a temporary injunction preventing the Trump administration from implementing the President’s executive order “Enhancing State and Local Involvement in Refugee Resettlement,” issued by the President on September 26th of last year.

As part of the executive order, the President authorized state and local governments to refuse the placement or resettlement of refugees in their communities stating that, the Federal government, as an exercise of its broad discretion, “should resettle refugees only in those jurisdictions in which both the State and local governments” consent to receive refugees under the Department of State’s Reception and Placement Program.

The government by its order sought to tighten the placement of refugees in the United States by allowing refugees into the United States only if both the State and local government consent to their placement in the State or locality.

In response to a lawsuit filed by refugee-resettlement organizations challenging the executive order, U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte said that the plaintiffs were “clearly likely to succeed in showing, that, by giving states and local governments veto power over the resettlement of refugees within their borders, the [executive] order is unlawful.”

To preserve the status quo, until a final decision is made on the merits, Judge Messitte issued a temporary injunction blocking the government from enforcing any part of the executive order on a nationwide basis.

Pursuant to the executive order, the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott became the first governor to veto the resettlement of refugees in his state, while several mayors across Texas opposed the governor’s actions.

The executive order is part of the President’s long-standing promise to drastically reduce the number of refugees admitted to the United States under his administration. The admission of refugees has dropped to a historic low under the Trump administration with the refugee ceiling hitting an all-time low of 18,000 refugees in fiscal year 2020. The refugee ceiling is the maximum number of refugees that may be admitted into the country by law each fiscal year.

In fiscal year 2017, approximately 53,700 refugees were resettled in the United States. The following year, the Trump administration set the refugee ceiling at 45,000, but only admitted 22,500, far below the ceiling. In fiscal year 2019, Trump reduced the refugee ceiling to 30,000.

The President yet again reduced the refugee ceiling to an astonishing 18,000 refugees for fiscal year 2020.

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said of the decision, “Another lawless district court has asserted its own preferred immigration policy in place of the laws of the United States — and, in so doing, robbed millions of American citizens of their voice and their say in a vital issue directly affecting their communities.”

The message is clear, the government is no longer willing to accept asylees and refugees, but the judicial branch will have the final say.