ATTORNEY GENERAL TONG JOINS EFFORT TO DEFEND REFUGEES AGAINST UNLAWFUL EXECUTIVE ORDER
Connecticut Welcomed 2,068 Refugees Over Last 5 Years
Attorney General William Tong joined a coalition of 12 attorneys general, led by California, Illinois, and Maryland, in an amicus brief seeking to block President Trump’s unlawful executive order on refugee resettlement and the U.S. Department of State’s recent attempt to implement that order’s consent requirement. The executive order seeks to upend the existing refugee resettlement process by requiring resettlement agencies to obtain written consent from state and local authorities before being able to place refugees in their jurisdictions.
In the brief filed in HIAS, INC. v. Donald Trump, the coalition argues that the executive order violates the Refugee Act of 1980, interferes with state sovereignty, undermines family reunification efforts, and disrupts the states’ abilities to deliver essential resources that help refugees contribute to the communities that welcome them.
Pursuant to the order, Governor Ned Lamont submitted a letter on December 11 officially notifying the Trump Administration of Connecticut's intent to continue accepting refugees fleeing persecution and seeking safety from violence.
"Over the last five years, Connecticut has opened its doors to over 2,000 refugees fleeing violence and persecution. And Governor Lamont made it clear earlier this month that—despite the President's unlawful order—Connecticut will remain an open and welcoming state. But states and cities shouldn't get a politically-motivated veto power when it comes to reuniting refugee families. This order is an unlawful insult to America's history as a nation of hope and refuge, and must be struck down," said Attorney General Tong.
“One of the biggest points lost in this entire conversation is that nobody chooses to be a refugee – we are talking about families who, through no fault of their own, are fleeing violence, seeking a safe place to raise their children, and trying to do so through the proper legal processes,” said Governor Lamont. “The resettlement of people escaping violence and seeking peace is a bedrock principle on which the United States was founded. Putting up barriers to erode this tradition and slow down the ability of these families to have a safe place to call home, which is what this presidential executive order attempts to accomplish, does nothing to make anyone more safe.”
Each year, thousands of refugees are admitted into the United States and welcomed into communities across the country where they can connect with services, resources, and members of their family or cultural community that help them not just adjust but thrive. President Trump’s executive order threatens to erode the decades-old refugee relocation system established by the U.S. Congress, which provides for the effective resettlement of refugees and assists them in achieving economic self-sufficiency as quickly as possible. The Refugee Act does not grant the President the authority to give states or their local governments the ability to veto the initial placement of refugees within their jurisdictions. In fact, the federal requirement to seek additional consent from county authorities undermines state sovereignty and runs contrary to one of the purposes of the Refugee Act: to give states a greater voice in making recommendations about refugee placement. Moreover, the consent requirement places an undue administrative burden on resettlement agencies, which would hinder the states’ abilities to deliver services.
Since October 2014, Connecticut has welcomed and resettled 2,068 refugees. Connecticut, like all the coalition states, has established a statewide system for facilitating funding for refugee placement in the state, as well as long-term services and programs to support refugees.
The executive order also undermines the Refugee Act’s family reunification provisions. Contrary to the act, the executive order would prevent family reunification, unless local governments consent, for certain refugees who have non-refugee family members already living in the United States. As a result, under the executive order, a refugee could be prevented from resettling in a community where they already have a child or sibling. Failing to adequately take existing familial ties into account contravenes congressional intent and directly harms efforts to maximize cultural supports that help refugees and their communities succeed. In 2015, refugees’ businesses generated $4.6 billion in income nationally. A 2017 draft report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that refugees contributed $63 billion more in tax revenue than they received in public benefits over the preceding decade.
In submitting the brief, Attorney General Tong joins the attorneys general of California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.
A copy of the brief is available here.