The International Refugee Assistance Project, which two years ago filed a lawsuit seeking to block implementation of President Donald Trump’s travel ban involving seven predominately Muslim countries, is seeking legal action over a new White House executive order limiting the number of refugees being admitted into the United States.
Last week, Trump announced a new refugee resettlement ceiling of 18,000 for 2019, a little more than half of the 30,000 refugees that were resettled last year and significantly less than the 85,000 refugees that were resettled in the final fiscal year of the Obama administration—the highest number admitted under his tenure.
Trump’s executive order shifts authority to accept refugees from the federal government to state and local jurisdictions, a move that resettlement agencies maintain will lead to confusion and possible discrimination.
“Under this new policy, a governor or locality may block refugees from being resettled in their jurisdictions even if a community of people stands ready to welcome them, even if family members have been awaiting their arrivals, even if resources and opportunities available make it the best place for those refugees to rebuild their lives, and even when the desire to keep them out is based on where they are from, the color of their skin, or how they pray,” the complaint reads.
IRAP filed the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit on Monday in an effort to seek answers on how the new refugee policy was created and clarity on how it will be implemented. The New York-based agency provides legal aid for refugees and displaced people worldwide and is one of nine nonprofit agencies authorized to resettle refugees in the U.S. The Trump administration has indicated it would also cut the number of authorized refugee agencies, but no further details on that aspect have been released.
According to the Christian Post, the decline in refugee resettlement has prompted all nine resettlement agencies to close down offices.
Dan Kosten, assistant director for skills and workforce development policy and advocacy at the National Immigration Forum, said decentralizing authority could create a “bureaucratic nightmare.”
“I can hardly imagine 50 states and how many localities in each state having to determine whether or not they're going to accept that refugees’ resettlement in those localities,” he stressed. “What about just the bureaucracy of collecting all these written consents, compiling it and figuring out who has agreed to it and who has not and where can we send them and not send them?”
In July, Christian Headlines carried an article about the decline in resettlement and how it was impacting the resettlement agencies, six of which are faith-based.
Among them is the evangelical World Relief, which is reporting the number of Christian refugee admissions has also fallen.
“The numbers don’t lie,” said Matthew Soerens, the U.S. director of church mobilization for World Relief.
But the executive order maintains that shifting authority ensures the refugees are placed in communities that are "eager and equipped to support their successful integration into American society and the labor force."
“State and local governments are best positioned to know the resources and capacities they may or may not have available to devote to sustainable resettlement, which maximizes the likelihood refugees placed in the area will become self-sufficient and free from long-term dependence on public assistance,” the order reads. “Some States and localities, however, have viewed existing consultation as insufficient, and there is a need for closer coordination and a more clearly defined role for State and local governments in the refugee resettlement process. My Administration seeks to enhance these consultations,” it concludes.
Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Best Green Screen
Lori Arnold is a national award-winning journalist whose experience includes 16 years at a daily community newspaper in San Diego and 16 years as writer-editor for the Christian Examiner. She owns StoryLori Media and is a member of the Evangelical Press Association.