A federal judge in Maryland ruled on 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. In his 31-page memorandum opinion, Messitte said that the refugee-resetlment groups that sued “are clearly likely to succeed in showing, that, by giving states and local government veto power over the resettlement of refugees within their borders, the order is unlawful,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Messitte — who was appointed to his position in 1993 by then-President Bill Clinton — went on to say 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 now places a hurdle in front of the Trump administration just days before the order was supposed to go into effect. The State Department had originally established a January 21 deadline for local officials to declare their positions on the resettlement program.
Trump issued an executive order in September of last year 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.
However, Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbot became the first to take Trump up on his offer. Abbott on Friday announced that Texas would not accept refugees for the year, saying 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.
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