Most States Agree to Continue Admitting Refugees as Judge Hears Lawsuit From Christian and Jewish Groups to Stop Resettlement Order

Syrians who were displaced by the Turkish military operation in northeastern Syria wait to receive tents and aid supplies at the Bardarash refugee camp north of Mosul, Iraq, on Oct. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

A federal judge in Maryland heard arguments Wednesday (Jan. 8) in a lawsuit by three faith-based organizations against the U.S. government over a recent executive order allowing state and local officials to block refugee resettlement.

In the complaint filed in November, HIAS (founded as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), Church World Service and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service argue President Donald Trump’s executive order violates federal law and inhibits their ability to practice their faith by resettling refugees.

The organizations also have asked for an injunction to temporarily stop the order requiring state and local officials to give written consent in advance for refugees to be resettled in their jurisdictions — even as most states already have agreed to admit refugees.

A ruling on that request is expected by Jan. 17, according to LIRS.

“In the last few weeks it’s been really heartening to see that a positive, unintended consequence of the illegal executive order is that states and communities have almost universally stood up and welcomed the stranger,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

“As a faith-based organization, we are so inspired to see communities across the country mobilizing around the biblical mandate to welcome the stranger.”

Vignarajah said afterward she also was encouraged by Judge Peter J. Messitte’s questions during the hearing.

“It was very clear that he had spent some time in advance of the hearing today giving this thoughtful, but also a kind of expeditious consideration, and we’re really grateful because what hangs in the balance is the lives of the most vulnerable communities,” she said.

The lawsuit is a first for Church World Service, noted Jen Smyers, director of policy and advocacy for CWS’ immigration and refugee program. It may not be the last.

“Litigation is something new for us, but probably something that we will have to continue to resort to if the administration insists on continuing to dismantle the refugee resettlement program,” Smyers said.

Click here to read more.
Source: Religion News Service