(AP) Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is one of more than 30 governors to tell President Donald Trump that their states will continue to accept refugees.
Trump issued an executive order allowing states to opt out of the federal refugee resettlement process. Edwards, a Democrat, sent in paperwork Friday saying Louisiana would continue to consent to refugee resettlement.
“The Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops appealed to Gov. Edwards to consent to the continued resettlement in writing, as required by a new federal executive order,” Christina Stephens, Edwards’ spokeswoman, said Monday. The action “will allow Catholic Charities to continue to provide valuable support and lawful refuge to these people in their time of great need, which Gov. Edwards strongly supports.”
Archbishop Gregory Aymond, of New Orleans, thanked Edwards on a Facebook post for the sending consent to the U.S. Secretary of State. “Symbolically, it says ‘There is room in the inn for those who seek refuge from war, persecution or natural disaster within their country of origin. This is what Jesus would do and we want to be like him,” Aymond posted.
Several people on Facebook criticized Aymond and Edwards.
Similarly, Trump’s executive order is putting Republican governors in an uncomfortable position. They’re caught between immigration hardliners who want to shut the door and some Christian evangelicals who believe helping refugees is a moral obligation. Others say refugees are vital to fill jobs and keep rural communities afloat.
A bipartisan group of more than 30 governors have agreed to accept refugees, but about a dozen Republican governors have stayed silent as they face a decision that must be made by Jan. 21 so resettlement agencies can secure federal funding in time to plan where to place refugees.
Trump’s executive order requires governors to publicly say they will accept refugees. They cannot automatically come to their states, even if cities and counties welcome them. So far, no one has opted to shut out refugees.
A North Dakota county voted this month to accept no more than 25 refugees next year, after initially signaling it would be the first to ban them.
Trump issued the order in September after slashing the number of refugees allowed into the United States in 2020 to a historic low of 18,000. The reduction is part of the administration’s efforts to reduce both legal and illegal immigration.
With his order, Trump again thrust states and local governments into immigration policy, willingly or not. It has caused heated debates and raucous meetings in several states, including North Dakota to Wisconsin.
Trump says his administration acted to respect communities that believe they do not have enough jobs to support refugees. Refugees can move anywhere in the U.S. after their initial resettlement at their own expense.
Republican governors in Nebraska, West Virginia, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Arizona, Iowa and Oklahoma have consented to accepting refugees in 2020. Vermont’s Republican governor said he intends to accepts refugees.
Others have not taken a public stance. They include the Republican governors of Georgia and Missouri, along with Gov. Greg Abbott, of Texas, the state that took in the largest number of refugees this year.
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, of California, the nation’s most populous state that resettles many refugees, also has not consented yet, but his office said he plans to do so.