AUGUSTA – Governor Janet Mills may have signed a letter asking for Maine to participate in the federal government’s refugee resettlement program, but that may not be the last word on the matter in Maine.
executive order from President Trump that Governor Mills responded to in her
refugee resettlement letter also gives county (or county equivalent) level
government leaders around the nation the authority to consent or to deny
consent to federal refugee resettlement in their respective counties.
The Democrat Mayor of Springfield, MA, has also said he will not consent to refugee resettlement in his city. Mayor Domenic Sarno says that consenting to any more refugee placements puts too great a burden on his city.
to the National League of Cities, the nine refugee resettlement agencies
around the country are tasked with acquiring written consent from a state’s
governor and the local government (county or county equivalent) to accept
refugees in the local area they govern.
is tied to funding provided for fiscal year 2020 for the work of those refugee
The current listing of consent documents posted at the United States Department of State shows that Governor Janet Mills, but no other Maine county or local governments, have provided their consent.
A review of
county commissioner minutes from Maine’s sixteen county commissions show no authorizations
of refugee resettlement as of January 12, 2020. None of the published agendas
of upcoming meetings show the issue of refugee resettlement consent being
brought up for consideration.
There are currently legal challenges to the executive order in the courts, and the outcome of those challenges is unknown at this time.
of President Trump’s Executive Order “Enhancing State and Local Involvement in
Refugee Resettlement outlines a process in which both a state’s Governor and the
county (or county equivalent) government must consent to refugee resettlement
before the State Department will place refugees in that locality.
however, provisions within Section 2b of the executive order that allow the
Secretary of State to authorize placement of refugees in a locality that has not
provided consent based on certain economic and education provisions included in
8 U.S.C. 1522(a)(2)(B) and (C) or other applicable law.
Those exceptions may be the basis on which some local governments have felt compelled to speak out and deny consent, rather than simply allow their silence to deny consent as the executive order is written.
Groups such as Justice for Immigrants, some church affiliated groups, the International Refugee Assistance Project, Amnesty International and others have launched legal challenges and efforts around the country to pressure governors and some local officials to submit their consent under the executive order.
Although the executive order specifically says county or county equivalent governments must consent for refugee placements to occur, the official listing of federal consent documents show some cities, including those in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Virginia have also submitted their consent.
The executive order and supporting documents do not provide for a specific deadline, but it is accepted that consent forms would need to be received by the end of January to allow for the requisite planning and work for refugee placements in the coming year.
The Trump administration has reduced the number of refugees that will be accepted across the United States in the coming year, but says the executive order ensures that refugees are placed in areas where the state and community are prepared and welcoming to refugees. Some counties that have chosen not to consent to refugee placement have said they simply do not have the financial means and infrastructure to assist more refugees.
The executive order and powers of county government are limited to the federal refugee resettlement program and do not apply to asylum seekers and other immigration programs. Authorities stress that while local governments may deny consent for refugee resettlement in their locality, once refugees are placed anywhere in the nation, they are free to move where they wish.
To monitor the
meetings of your county commissioners, Maine Examiner is providing basic
information for each of Maine’s sixteen county commissions below.