Gov. Doug Ducey said Friday he won’t take advantage of an offer by President Trump to allow Arizona to opt out of taking refugees, at least not up front.
“Throughout our nation’s history, the United States has been a refuge for individuals fleeing religious and political persecution in their homeland,” Ducey wrote Friday to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “And Arizona has historically been one of the most welcoming states in terms of the number of refugees resettled here.”
Specifically, the governor told Pompeo he officially is consenting to “initial refugee resettlement in Arizona” as required by Trump’s executive order.
That order relates to the fact that the federal government works with local authorities and nonprofit agencies to resettle the refugees accepted into this country. What changed is that Trump said that cities and states must provide written consent for such resettlement, effectively giving them a veto.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Maryland, lawyers representing resettlement agencies said the order is beyond the president’s power. Attorney Melissa Keaney of the International Refugee Assistance Project, said Congress gave state and local officials “a voice but not a veto” in such matters.
Ducey’s letter to Pompeo ends part of any threat of refugees being turned away in Arizona.
In that letter, the governor said one thing that made him decide to permit continued resettlement is his belief that they pose no risk.
“Refugees arriving in the United States have been vetted and approved by the appropriate national security agencies and the Department of State and have been granted legal entry to make a new home in the land of the free,” Ducey wrote.
That letter, however, may not fully clear the way.
Ducey press aide Patrick Ptak said similar approvals are needed from local governments. But he said that most likely involves only Pima and Maricopa county officials and those in affected cities.
The governor’s decision drew praise from Bishop Edward Weisenburger of the Catholic diocese of Tucson.
“Refugee resettlement is a critical ministry which we, along with a great many dioceses across our nation, have provided for many years,” he said in a written statement. “Providing aid to those in dire need and who are fearing for their lives is an important part of Catholic teaching.”
The governor’s decision also is supported by House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa.
“Our state is one that offers opportunities for all,” he said in a statement. “We welcome people from all backgrounds, religions and cultures to come here and share in that special spirit.”
Ducey has not always been openly welcoming of foreign refugees.
Four years ago, on the heels of a terrorist attack in Paris apparently linked to refugees there, the governor asked the federal government to halt their placement here.
In his statement at that time, the governor cited a provision of federal law he said entitles him to “immediate consultation by federal authorities” of plans to resettle any refugees in the state. He also demanded the federal government “take into account the concerns and recommendations of the state of Arizona as they are required to under federal law, in our efforts to keep our homeland safe.”
Several other governors, all Republicans, sent similar messages to the administration which at the time was headed by Democrat President Barack Obama.
Ptak said Friday that the 2015 demand got his boss what he wanted: to be heard.
“If you remember, in 2015 what he was asking for was consultation and a request to work with the federal government to understand the (resettlement) process better,” he said. “And that did take place to my understanding.”
Ptak said that even during that period and ever since Arizona has “historically shouldered its share of this responsibility.”
“And what the governor’s letter indicated today is it was going to continue to do so,” he said.
Ptak also said Ducey is satisfied with the review process.
“These individuals are heavily vetted and they do work with nonprofits when they get here,” he said.