US mayors urge White House to rescind refugee resettlement order

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People wait to apply for asylum in the United States along the border Tuesday, July 16, 2019, in Tijuana, Mexico. Dozens of immigrants lined up Tuesday at a major Mexico border crossing, waiting to learn how the Trump administration’s plans to end most asylum protections would affect their hopes of taking refuge in the United States. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Nearly 100 U.S. mayors are urging the Trump administration to rescind an executive order they say will give states final say on whether refugees are allowed to resettle in their areas.

Ninety mayors from across the nation, including several whose cities are located along the U.S.-Mexico border, are also asking the Administration to return this year’s refugee admissions to previous annual levels.

In the letter addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the United States Conference of Mayors said they “recognize the many contributions refugees make to their cities and to our nation as a whole.”

“For years, the United States has been a world leader in welcoming people who have fled violence and persecution and are seeking a safe place to call home,” the letter reads. “… U.S. cities have long benefited from the annual arrival of refugees. Once they are resettled, refugees learn the new language, adjust to the different culture, and strive to establish a new life. In the process, they also enrich and bring cultural vibrancy and diversity to their local communities.”

The mayors argue the executive order, which also aims to identify state and local governments that may not be able to accommodate refugee resettlement, would fundamentally change the structure of the U.S. resettlement program by devolving key decisions primarily to the states. The mayors said the changes would ultimately lead to a patchwork of conflicting policies running contrary to the purpose of a national resettlement program, which was established 40 years ago.

“It will also leave thousands of refugees, former refugees, and U.S. citizens without consistent and routine access to integration services and other supports,” the letter said. “This is an unprecedented and harmful procedure, particularly given that resettlement agencies already consult regularly with state and local stakeholders regarding community needs.”

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump signed off on a plan that continues a dramatic drop in the number of refugees taken in by the U.S. to no more than 18,000 in Fiscal Year 2020.

In the last full year of the Obama administration, the refugee ceiling was 85,000. This year, the Trump administration set the limit at 30,000. That number was the lowest since the modern resettlement program’s creation in 1980.

In a statement issued Nov. 2, Pompeo noted that refugee resettlement “is only one aspect of U.S. humanitarian-based immigration efforts.” He cited diplomatic efforts to find solutions to crises as well as humanitarian aid.

In its letter, the U.S. Conference of Mayors also asks the Administration to return this year’s refugee admissions to previous annual levels. The mayors noted that the plan to reduce the number of refugees who may enter the country this fiscal year to 18,000 represents a reduction of approximately 80 percent from the levels of just a few years ago.

“This harms both the tens of thousands of refugees who have been patiently waiting overseas to work their way through the system and it harms our cities because they won’t be able to come to our communities and continue to make the important contributions that those who came before them were able to do,” the letter reads.

In a statement to Border Report, El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said limiting the number of refugees the U.S. admits hurts business.

“Employers are decrying the limits on H-1 visas, and restricting refugee admittance continues to exacerbate this problem,” Margo said. “This continues to point out we need broad immigration reform.”

The mayor of Fort Worth, who is a member of the Conference but was not part of the letter to Pompeo, is urging Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to continue allowing refugees to call Texas home, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

In a letter to Abbott, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price wrote, “As Mayor, I’ve witnessed the mutually beneficial impact of resettling almost 2,600 refugees in Fort Worth since 2016. .. I don’t want to risk fixing anything that is not broken. I have heard from supportive local employers and faith leaders who share my concern that refugees may no longer be permitted in Fort Worth and North Texas, potentially harming our economy and increasing the risk that refugees might not be placed with their Texas family members.”

Trump signed the “Executive Order on Enhancing State and Local Involvement in Refugee Resettlement” on Sept. 26, 2019. Its purpose is “to cooperate and consult with State and local governments, to take into account the preferences of State governments, and to provide a pathway for refugees to become self-sufficient.

The order states that “Close cooperation with State and local governments ensures that refugees are resettled in communities that are eager and equipped to support their successful integration into American society and the labor force.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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