An Executive Order issued September 26, 2019 by
President Donald Trump requiring state and local governments to provide
official consent to allow refugee resettlement in their jurisdictions has been
the source of nationwide discussion over the last four months.
Under the Executive Order, not only would the governor
of a state have to respond whether or not to allow consent – Texas Governor
Greg Abbott became the first governor to refuse consent to accept refugees –
but would also require the chief executive officers of counties within a state
to approve or deny refugees to be resettled in their jurisdictions.
The question of refugee resettlement came up on the
Jan. 21 agenda of the Wright County Board of Commissioners, but any local
determination of whether or not to give consent or not was tabled. On Jan. 15 temporary
injunction was granted in the U.S. District Court of Appeals in Maryland that
has laid over the requirement for state and local jurisdictions to vote the
matter up or down.
In December, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz provided consent
on behalf of the state. At the time of the Jan. 15 injunction, one Minnesota
county (Beltrami) had voted to deny refugee resettlement and 24 had authorized
consent – Blue Earth, Brown, Clay, Cook, Dakota, Dodge, Fillmore, Goodhue,
Hennepin, Kandiyohi, Mower, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Olmsted, Otter Tail, Pipestone,
Pope, Ramsey, Redwood, Rice, Sherburne, Steele and Washington counties.
The appeals court injunction effectively stops the
requirement of answering the refugee resettlement question while the matter
plays out through the courts. Until the matter is resolved, the U.S. Refugee
Admissions Program will continue to operate as it had prior to the Executive
Order in September.
While the issue has been a hot-button topic in some
states and counties, it hasn’t been an issue in Wright County. Over the last five
federal fiscal years (FFY 2015-19), of the 8,128 primary refugee arrivals to
Minnesota, only 20 (0.0025 percent) have arrived in Wright County with just three
in the last three years and one in the last two years.
Wright County Board Chair Christine Husom said that
she and her fellow commissioners have received comments from constituents on
both sides of the issue and felt more time was needed to study the pros and
cons of the decision.
“There are so many unanswered questions and a lot of
people have a lot of confusion about what this is,” Husom said.
Commissioner Darek Vetsch countered that the
discussion was rendered moot by the federal injunction and that any input from
Wright County should be put on hold until the matter is resolved in federal
“I don’t want to take too much staff time and time in
general for something that likely, depending on what the courts do with, may be
futile for any discussion that we have at this point,” Vetsch said. “I think
it’s best that we leave it alone and see what the courts decide on it. At that
point, there will be some clarity to it and we will be making a decision based
on that clarity.”
The board heard from Buffalo resident Eric
Fredrickson, who said it has been a topic of discussion among Wright County
residents and asked that, if the matter is going to be brought to a vote, that
the public be informed and allowed to participate in the meeting to let their
views be heard.
“I know there’s a lot of interest in this,”
Fredrickson said. “If you guys table this, if you could make a public meeting
and have some announcement of that so people can come. That way, there is going
to be a good decision with plenty of input.”
Commissioner Mike Potter took that request one step
further, asking that, if the matter needs to be voted on at some point, the
commissioners conduct a night meeting so more residents will be able to attend
and invite Rachele King, State Refugee Coordinator for the Minnesota Department
of Human Services, to attend and answer questions and concerns residents on
both sides of the issue may have.
Potter said his biggest question is whether there will
be the potential loss of federal funding if a county votes “no” on the refugee
resettlement question – much in the same way the federal government in the
1970s threatened to withhold critical federal transportation funding for states
the refused to comply with the 55 mph speed limit mandate.
“I always look at these things when you get pushed
with ultimatums, if you say ‘yes’ or you say ‘no,’ what does it mean?” Potter
Vetsch said that, the way the courts system works at
the federal level, it could be as long as a year before a ruling is made that
either makes the temporary injunction permanent or reinstates Executive Order
13888 and continues the process of state and local governments being required
to consent or not consent to accept resettled refugees.
“We’re likely 12 months out from anything,” Vetsch
said. “By the time it goes through the courts, it will probably be appealed.
Until the appeals process is done, we’re probably a year out from any kind of
public hearing or any kind of decision and that’s if it’s a (court) decision
that brings it back to us for a decision. I just don’t want anybody with any
inclination thinking that it will be back here in the next 30 to 60 days.
That’s very unlikely.”
For those interested in learning more about the
refugee resettlement issue, here is a link to the Association of Minnesota
Counties’ County Library and Information Center. There are nine document links
on the page, including Minnesota county refugee data, a question-and-answer
letter from King, a policy brief from the Minnesota Department of Human
Services, President Trump’s Executive Order, five-year county-by-county refugee
data and national refugee data:
To read the 31-page decision from the U.S. District
Court for the District of Maryland, click the following link: