Feds appeal order blocking Trump refugee resettlement limit

Politics

In this Jan. 8, 2020, file photo, Linda Evarts, an attorney for the International Refugee Assistant Project, speaks to the media outside the federal courthouse in Greenbelt, Md. The federal government is appealing a judge’s decision to block the Trump administration from enforcing an executive order allowing state and local governments to turn away refugees from resettling in their jurisdictions. A notice of appeal filed Tuesday, Feb. 11, by the Justice Department says it is asking the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review the Jan. 15 ruling by U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte in Maryland.(AP Photo/Michael Kunzelman, File)

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — The federal government is appealing a judge’s decision to block the Trump administration from enforcing an executive order that allows state and local governments to turn away refugees.

A notice of appeal filed Tuesday by the Justice Department says it is asking the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review the Jan. 15 ruling by U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte in Maryland.

Messitte said in his 31-page opinion that the order signed by President Donald Trump “flies in the face of clear Congressional intent” of the 1980 Refugee Act. Messitte said the process of resettling refugees should continue as it has for nearly 40 years, with resettlement agencies deciding where a person would best thrive.

Church World Service, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, and HIAS — a Jewish nonprofit — sued in November to block the executive order. The judge granted their request for a preliminary injunction that preserves the status quo while the lawsuit is pending in Greenbelt, Md.

Trump’s order, which was issued in September and had been set to go into effect in June, required agencies to get written consent from state and local officials before resettling refugees in their jurisdictions. Trump said he acted to respect communities that believe they do not have the jobs or other resources to be able to take in refugees.

The agencies said the executive order was an attempt at a state-by-state ban on refugees. Messitte agreed, writing, “It grants them veto power. Period.”

The White House said in a statement last month that the judge’s ruling was “preposterous” and that Congress under the Refugee Act afforded the president authority over the refugee resettlement process.

“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 statement said.

Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said the government’s appeal is “unfortunate in our minds but not unexpected.”

“We are essentially in limbo as the appeal process takes its course,” she said, adding that there is “some risk of disruption to the (resettlement) system” if the case isn’t resolved for months.

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