- The Washington Times - Friday, January 8, 2021

President Trump’s attempt to give local governments a veto over having refugees resettled in their communities was rejected by a federal appeals court Friday, with the judges upholding a lower court that found the policy likely illegal.

Mr. Trump had signed an executive order in 2019 to create the veto, saying communities that can’t or don’t want to bear a burden from refugees should be allowed to block them.

But the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said immigration law doesn’t envision such a veto power, and the president can’t grant states, cities and counties one on his own.

Judge Barbara Milano Keenan, an Obama appointee who wrote the opinion for the three-judge panel, also said the Trump administration’s plans were unworkable, because it’s not clear who at the local level would have the power to speak for a community.

Immigrant-rights groups cheered the ruling, which upheld an injunction by a lower-court judge.

“This ruling is a rebuke to those who would hold xenophobia as the core tenet of U.S. policy on resettlement, but it also lets the world’s most vulnerable know that our country remains a place of welcome,” said the Rev. John L. McCullough, president of Church World Service, one of the groups that sued.

The Trump policy had been blocked early on, but even before that it was looking like it would have little effect.

Nearly every governor and dozens of local communities affirmatively said they would accept refugees, rejecting the need for a veto.

The only governor who said he would flex the veto was Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Mr. Trump has dramatically curtailed the number of refugees admitted each year — though his aides argue that’s more than compensated for by the number of unauthorized migrants who’ve jumped the border and lodged asylum claims over the last few years.

Asylum-seekers are those asking for protections who’ve already made it to U.S. soil. Refugees are those applying from outside the country.

Under the U.S. system, once refugees are approved for resettlement nonprofit groups step in and help them get settled in a community.

Those nonprofits, such as CWS, said Mr. Trump’s local veto plan meant they would have to spend time and money lobbying communities to accept refugees, rather than spending their efforts on the resettlement itself.

The administration could attempt to appeal Friday’s ruling, though with less than two weeks to go before a change in power the new administration could quickly reverse that decision.

And the new president could also revoke the executive order, making the issue moot.

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