Attorney General Becerra Blasts Federal Overreach, Continues Fight to Protect Refugee and State Rights

Monday, June 1, 2020
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Highlights billions in vital economic contributions made by refugees 

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh today co-led a coalition of 19 attorneys general in an amicus brief filed in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of a lawsuit challenging President Trump’s unlawful executive order on refugee resettlement. The executive order seeks to upend the existing process by requiring written consent from state and local authorities before being able to place refugees in their jurisdictions. Following a multistate amicus brief at the district court level, the U.S. Department of State was blocked from implementing the executive order while litigation is ongoing. In this latest amicus following the Trump Administration’s decision to appeal the preliminary injunction issued in HIAS, Inc. v. Trump, the coalition again asserts that the executive order violates the Refugee Act of 1980, undermines family reunification efforts, and disrupts the states’ ability to deliver essential resources that help refugees contribute to the communities that welcome them.

“Our nation is already reeling from an unprecedented economic and public health crisis,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Now is not the time for the federal government to throw a wrench into a system that helps bring billions of dollars to communities across the country. Standing up for refugees who are lawfully admitted to this country isn’t just right, it’s the smart thing to do. Despite what President Trump might say, refugees are welcome here in California.”

Rather than strengthening the existing refugee resettlement system established by Congress, President Trump’s executive order threatens to undercut it and efforts to help refugees achieve economic self-sufficiency as quickly as possible. For instance, under the executive order, a refugee could be prevented from resettling in a community where they already have a child or sibling, contravening congressional intent and directly harming efforts to maximize cultural supports that help refugees and their communities succeed. Moreover, the executive order’s consent requirement runs contrary to one of the key purposes of the Refugee Act: to give states a greater voice in making recommendations about refugee placement. Instead, the consent requirement places an undue administrative burden on resettlement agencies, hindering the delivery of services to the thousands of refugees who are welcomed into communities across the country each year. Since 2001, California has welcomed and resettled more than 100,000 refugees — more than any other state. In 2015, refugees’ businesses generated $4.6 billion in income nationally and refugees’ spending power in California alone totaled more than $17.2 billion. Given the current economic and public health crisis, these contributions are more important than ever.

Attorney General Becerra remains committed to fighting for the rights of all people, including immigrants and their families, in California and across the country. In April, the Attorney General called on the Trump Administration to protect vulnerable communities from homelessness during COVID-19 by halting efforts to finalize a rule on housing assistance eligibility that could evict tens of thousands of Californians. Last year, Attorney General Becerra led a coalition of 21 attorneys general in defending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy before the U.S. Supreme Court and, thanks to a preliminary injunction secured by California in 2018, more than 64,000 Dreamers were able to renew their protections last quarter alone. Attorney General Becerra also filed a lawsuit in opposition to a rule circumventing protections for children under the Flores Settlement Agreement. That rule was permanently blocked by a federal court in September of 2019.

In submitting the amicus brief, Attorney General Becerra is joined by the attorneys general of Illinois, Maryland, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. 

A copy of the amicus is available here.

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