Clinton-Appointed Judge Blocks Trump’s Executive Order On Refugee Resettlement

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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A federal judge in Maryland ruled Wednesday to stop President Donald Trump’s executive order allowing states and localities to choose whether they wish to accept refugees.

Peter Messitte, a judge on the Maryland District Court, issued a temporary injunction against the Trump administration’s order giving states and counties the option to decline refugees on an annual basis. Messitte said in his 31-page memorandum opinion that the refugee resettlement groups that sued “are clearly likely to succeed in showing, that, by giving states and local governments veto power over the resettlement of refugees within their borders, the order is unlawful,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

Messitte — who former President Bill Clinton appointed to the position in 1993 — said that giving authority to the states to decide whether to accept refugees “flies in the face of clear congressional intent” as it conflicts with the Refugee Act.

The ruling marks a major victory for the group of faith-based organizations that filed the lawsuit and places a hurdle in front of the Trump administration days before the order was supposed to go into effect. The State Department originally established a Jan. 21 deadline for local officials to declare their positions on the resettlement program.

Syrians who have been recently-turned refugees by the Turkish military operation in northeastern Syria are pictured upon arriving at the Bardarash camp, near the Kurdish city of Dohuk, in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, on October 16, 2019. (SAFIN HAMED/AFP via Getty Images)

Syrians who have been recently-turned refugees by the Turkish military operation in northeastern Syria are pictured upon arriving at the Bardarash camp, near the Kurdish city of Dohuk, in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, on Oct. 16, 2019. (Photo by SAFIN HAMED/AFP via Getty Images)

Trump issued an executive order in September 2019 that gave authority to state and local governments over whether they would want to accept refugees. The directive was the administration’s latest move to restrict the flow of refugees into the country. The administration had already set the 2020 refugee cap at 18,000, the lowest number since the U.S. refugee program began in 1980.

A vast majority of governors — both Republican and Democrats — have so far chosen to keep accepting refugees. To date, 42 governors have notified the White House that they will keep taking them in, including 19 GOP governors. (RELATED: ‘Height Of Hypocrisy’: ICE Rips New York For Not Turning Over Illegal Alien Now Accused Of Killing 92-Year-Old Woman)

However, Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott became the first to take Trump up on his offer. Abbott announced on Jan. 10 that Texas would not accept refugees for the year and said that, since Texas has accepted more of them than any other state for years, it was time for other state governments to step up.

Messitte’s ruling nullifies Abbott’s decision for the time being, but the case will continue to play out in court.

The Trump administration blasted the decision in a statement Wednesday evening from the White House press secretary. It said:

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. President Trump rightly and justly recognized that your communities are unique, and while some cities have the resources to adequately support refugees and help them be successful, not all communities can sustain the substantial and costly burden.

“This is a preposterous ruling, one more example of nationwide district court injunctions run amok, and we are expeditiously reviewing all options to protect our communities and preserve the integrity of the refugee resettlement process,” the statement continued.

Update: This article was updated to include comment from the White House.

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