Judge Blocks Executive Order, Halting Abbott’s Refugee Ban

Contrary to Gov. Greg Abbott's wishes, Texas may have to accept new refugees, after all.
Contrary to Gov. Greg Abbott's wishes, Texas may have to accept new refugees, after all. Brad Greeff/iStock
A federal judge in the U.S. District Court of Appeals in Maryland issued a preliminary injunction Wednesday morning blocking the executive order that allowed Gov. Greg Abbott to reject all new refugees to Texas.

In a 31-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte blocked the order, stating that the plaintiffs would likely succeed in their argument that the order is unconstitutional and could cause irreparable harm to refugees. Furthermore, the executive order appears to be in direct opposition to the mission of the Refugee Act of 1980, which formalized United States refugee resettlement practices and lays out that the country will offer homes to refugees in a “comprehensive and uniform” way, Messitte wrote.

“By giving States and Local Governments the power to veto where refugees may be resettled — in the face of clear statutory text and structure, purpose, Congressional intent, executive practice, judicial holdings and Constitutional doctrine to the contrary — Order 13888 does not appear to serve the overall public interest,” Messitte wrote.

Messitte's injunction immediately reinstates the refugee resettlement policies the country has used since the Refugee Act passed.

The judge was looking to determine if there was a logical basis to change how refugee resettlement is done, said Bill Holston, executive director of the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas.

"You haven't stated any real policy reason, well there's been no change in law, there's no policy reasons why you should change the administration of those laws," he said.

Holston, who is also a lawyer, expected the injunction to be sent to a court of appeals immediately.

Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Church World Services and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services filed the joint suit against the president's order last year and Messitte heard preliminary arguments last week.

His decision comes after Abbott's announcement that Texas will not continue to accept new refugees. Under the executive order, governors have until Jan. 21 to indicate that they would like to continue to receive refugees or lose funding. To date, more than 40 governors have opted in. Abbott was the first to say no.

His rejection has riled local refugee agencies, who say that the order will make it hard for them to continue to support refugees and that its implementation is directly contrary to Texas and American policies of welcoming immigrants.

Until further steps are taken in the lawsuit, Texas will now have to continue to accept refugees.

"It's a moment to celebrate. Anytime the advocates ... are able to slow down these things that are wrong and injust, that's a thing to celebrate," Holston said. 
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Meredith Lawrence