MN State and Local Governments Say ‘Yes’ to Refugees

January 6, 2020

In response to a presidential executive order, Gov. Walz and several counties have given consent to continue allowing refugees to resettle within their boundaries.

The state of Minnesota and several Minnesota counties submitted letters of consent to the federal government in December to continue allowing refugee resettlement within their boundaries. The letters were in response to an executive order issued by President Trump on Sept. 26.

President Trump’s order, titled “Enhancing State and Local Involvement in Refugee Resettlement,” preconditions future refugee resettlements on the written consent of states and localities to permit them. States and localities were required to submit their written consent within 90 days of the order.

How the order applies to cities

There was initial confusion as to whether “locality” applies to cities, because the term is not defined in the order. However, “locality” has been interpreted in federal guidance to mean counties.

To receive funding for fiscal year 2020, refugee resettlement organizations must attach the written consents of states and counties to their funding applications and submit them by the Jan. 21 deadline. Three religious-based refugee resettlement organizations have filed a legal challenge to the order in federal court in Maryland. No rulings have been issued to date.

—Read the federal funding guidance

State and counties favor resettlement

Gov. Walz, on behalf of the state of Minnesota, submitted his letter of consent to continued refugee resettlement within the state on Dec. 13. Several counties have also voted in favor of continued refugee resettlement.

Cities may adopt similar resolutions, but they are not considered the relevant locality under the president’s executive order, so their resolutions would be symbolic in nature.

League position

The League has no formal policy regarding refugee resettlement. However, the League’s Improving Service Delivery Policy Committee has a legislative policy (SD-45) that encourages federal and state government to refrain from transferring immigration enforcement responsibilities to local authorities. The policy also states that federal and state governments should not prohibit local governments from fostering relationships and cooperation with their immigrant communities.

The League is monitoring the legal challenge and the implementation of the order and may have more updates as information becomes available.