|RICHMOND (December 16, 2019) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring has filed an amicus brief seeking to block President Trump’s unlawful executive order that seeks to close our borders to refugees. In the brief filed in HIAS, Inc. v. Donald Trump, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues argue that Executive Order 13888 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.
“Refugees have lived through unimaginable hardship and tragedy and they deserve to be welcomed to our country with open arms and open hearts,” said Attorney General Mark R. Herring. “President Trump has made it no secret that he wants to close our doors to those who are in need and looking for better lives for themselves and their families. I will not let him succeed. We are Commonwealth that lifts up those who may be less fortunate or who are escaping danger and I will fight to make sure that we have the ability to continue to do this.”
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 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.
Over the last five years, Virginia has welcomed and resettled 4,809 refugees. Virginia, along with its fellow states in the coalition, 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.
Additionally, following the announcement of President Trump’s executive order, Governor Ralph Northam sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Mike Pompeo to say that Virginia will remain an open and welcoming place for refugees of all backgrounds regardless of changes at the federal level. In the letter Governor Northam says, “Virginia’s lights are on and our doors are open, and we welcome new Virginians to make their homes here”.
Joining Attorney General Herring in submitting the brief are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington.