ST. PAUL — Gov. Tim Walz on Friday, Dec. 13, penned a letter to the Trump administration saying the state would continue accepting refugees under an executive order that requires counties and states to explicitly state they'd be willing to take them in.
The move comes after President Donald Trump in September signed Executive Order 13888, which requires all states and counties to notify the State Department, in writing, that they will consent to receive refugees from the department's Reception and Placement Program into their jurisdictions. And it makes Minnesota among a handful of states, including North Dakota, to say they'll welcome refugees.
Minnesota counties have begun public and private conversations about whether they'll reach out to the State Department, with Kandiyohi County becoming the first to narrowly approve continued refugee resettlement earlier this month. Counties have said they have until Dec. 25 to decide whether they'll accept refugee placements and didn't learn about the deadline until last month.
The Minneapolis City Council on Friday approved a resolution reaffirming its commitment to welcoming refugees.
Resettlement agencies are required to submit their proposals for refugee placements before the end of January. And they will take into consideration letters they receive when determining where they can place people for their initial settlement.
"Minnesota has a strong moral tradition of welcoming those who seek refuge," Walz said in his letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. "Our state has always stepped forward to help those who are fleeing desperate situations and need a safe place to call home. In keeping with this proud history, I offer my consent to continue refugee resettlement in the State of Minnesota."
The first-term DFL governor and frequent opponent of the president in his letter spoke of the value that refugees bring to Minnesota and rejected the intent of the administration's executive order. And he referenced the biblical story of the birth of Jesus to make his case about the need to welcome people in.
"As the Holiday Season approaches, we are reminded of the importance of welcoming all who seek shelter," Walz said. "The inn is not full in Minnesota."
At a Minneapolis campaign rally in October, Trump touted his efforts to turn over decisions about refugee placements to local governments and criticized previous administrations' decisions to bring in more refugees.
“As you know for many years leaders in Washington brought large numbers of refugees to your state from Somalia without considering the impact on schools and communities and taxpayers,” Trump told a nearly full Target Center. “I promise you, as president, I would give local communities a greater say in refugee policy and put in place enhanced vetting and responsible immigration controls. And I’ve done that.”
The Minnesota Department of Human Services reports that 775 refugees have been placed in Minnesota in 2019, down significantly compared to previous years. And of those placed, the bulk of the refugees came from Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Sixty-seven of those placed in Minnesota this year came from Somalia and 69 came from Ukraine.
Trump's executive order has been challenged by several refugee resettlement agencies that allege it violates federal law. And on Friday, Attorney General Keith Ellison announced that he had joined a lawsuit with 12 other states challenging the order as it violates the Refugee Act of 1980.
“Minnesotans want everyone to live with the same dignity and respect that they want for themselves," Ellison said. "This includes the many refugees we have resettled here, who have given back many times over to the state, communities, and neighbors that have welcomed them. I’m challenging the president’s order on behalf of the people of Minnesota because it is illegal and immoral."