A federal judge on Wednesday, Jan. 15, temporarily blocked the enforcement of President Donald Trump’s executive order that would allow state and local officials to refuse to accept refugees.

Judge Pete J. Messitte of Maryland District Court, who was appointed by former President Clinton, granted a motion from three refugee groups—HIAS Inc., Church World Service Inc., and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service to temporarily stay the order.

President Trump issued the executive order in September, stating that the federal government consults with state and local governments before resettling refugees in order to ensure “refugees are resettled 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 read.

But opponents to the order claimed that it is unlawful and unconstitutional. In their lawsuit filed in November, the groups argued that the executive order undermines the existing legal framework for admitting and resettling refugees in the United States. 

“The president’s order and resulting agency actions threaten to deprive thousands of refugees of their best chance to successfully build a new life and to burden thousands of U.S. families who are waiting to reunite with their parents, children, and other relatives fleeing persecution,” they wrote in their complaint.

Judge Messitte ruled against the administration, saying that the executive order gives state and locals authorities outsized authority in a federal program. 

“Making the resettlement of refugees wholly contingent upon the consents of state or local governments, as the veto component of the proposed order would have it, thus raises four-square the very serious matter of federal pre-emption under the Constitution,” Messitte wrote. “It is hard to see how the order, if implemented, would not subvert the delicate federal-state structuring contemplated by the Refugee Act.”

In 2015, more than two dozen states expressed resistance to accepting Syrian refugees and a handful of states have filed lawsuits seeking to block Syrian refugees, including Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, and Indiana.

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, who took in more refugees than any other state during the 2018 fiscal year, made his state the first in the country to reject the resettlement of new refugees. Abbott said, “Texas has been left by Congress to deal with disproportionate migration issues resulting from a broken federal immigration system.”

President Trump has decided to reduce the American refugee program by almost half. The administration said it would accept 18,000 refugees in fiscal year 2020, down from the current limit of 30,000 and a fraction of the cap of 110,000 set by former President Barack Obama in 2016.

Sign up to receive our latest news!

By submitting this form, I agree to the terms.